After three hours of passionate debate, San Antonio City Council's Public Safety Committee this afternoon rejected a request by those so called 'ride sharing' firms like Uber and Lyft to compete with traditional taxis in the city, Newsradio 1200 WOAI news reports.
The committee rejected a recommendation from the city staff, and instead urged a commission be formed to look into the question of the ride sharing firms, and report back to council in November.
More than sixty people, mainly taxi drivers and ride sharing participants, spoke t the committee.
Yellow Cab President John Bouloubasis told the committee that the very fact that Uber and Lyft have continued to operate despite a police 'cease and desist' order against them shows they can't be trusted to follow any regulations the city sets out for them.
"They have continued to disobey and disrespect the uniformed members of the San Antonio Police Department, despite being ticketed, towed, and impounded," Bouloubasis said.
Several Uber and Lyft drivers and passengers said the services, which are summoned by an iPhone app, are safer and more reliable than standard taxis.
But taxi drivers stressed that Uber and Lyft are not required to serve the entire city, like they are, and are not required to have equipment in their taxis to accommodate the disabled. Many disabled passengers spoke up for the taxi industry.
One taxi driver compared Uber and Lyft to 'Jim Crow' laws under the old segregated south.
"This sets up a separate service for the gated neighborhoods and the silk stocking neighborhoods," he said, accusing Uber and Lyft of 'redlining.
Another taxi driver said the firms are guilty of 'organized crime.'
The San Antonio Police Department had recommended a compromise that would have allowed Uber and Lyft to operate legally. It would have required $1 million in insurance for ride sharing drivers when they are picking up passengers, and forbidden Uber and Lyft from using existing taxi stands or taking rides from passengers who 'hail cabs' on the street.
In fact, the Council Committee urged the Police to step up their cease and desist order, and stressed that Lyft and Uber, until council decides otherwise, are acting illegally.