Tri-Citians should be able to summon Uber through their smartphone apps in time for the holidays.
The Kennewick City Council is expected to adopt a new set of codes in November that will allow the ride-sharing service and similar companies to legally operate here.
Kennewick was taking the lead on the issue for the Tri-Cities, so the other cities are likely to follow soon after.
The city and Uber have been locked in negotiations over who should perform driver background checks.
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The standoff seemed insurmountable last spring. The city insisted it would conduct background checks for drivers, and Uber said it would not operate here if it didn’t conduct its own.
The San Francisco-based company feared that the city’s limited staff would be overwhelmed by applications and be unable to process them quickly enough.
Uber apparently won because Uber’s local fans stepped forward to demand it be allowed to operate in the Tri-Cities.
Jessica Foltz, assistant city attorney, said the city saw a push from citizens who want Uber-like services.
Faith Shipman, a Kennewick caregiver, is one of them. She’s used Uber in Seattle and says it would be a great option in the Tri-Cities for non-drivers and people who find themselves without a car.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said.
Kennewick’s new code, reviewed during a city council workshop this week, allows Uber and other “transportation network companies,” or TNCs, to conduct background checks.
The city will set minimum standards for the checks and will audit up to 20 percent of the driver records annually.
The code also will require that Uber vehicles pass regular inspections by recognized mechanics.
The new codes, scheduled for approval Nov. 15, will regulate traditional taxi services and the network-based transportation companies.
The new code will alter the permit system for all taxis and transportation companies.
Unlike traditional taxis, Uber drivers will not have to mark up their vehicles because the app provides pictures of both the vehicle and the driver so users know who is picking them up.
Under the new codes, they will only be allowed to pick up riders who have established contact through the app. Only traditional marked taxis may collect passengers who flag them down on the street.
Drivers registered with Uber serve Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Yakima, Walla Walla, Colville and the greater Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area.