Pasco council members remain at an impasse on an ordinance that would allow Uber to operate in the city.
The sticking point is a proposed fingerprint requirement for drivers — something Uber labels a deal-breaker.
Councilman Chi Flores asked for the issue to be brought up again this week, just three weeks after the last failed vote.
But another 35-minute discussion ended with the same result — a 3-3 deadlock.
Councilman Tom Larsen, who could have broken the tie, was absent.
However, the inability of the council to agree on the issue could be moot if Substitute Senate Bill 5620 passes the Legislature this session.
The bill calls for statewide uniform regulation for transportation network companies like Uber that solely use web-based platforms or smartphone applications to prearrange rides.
It requires companies to conduct a local and national criminal background check for the applicant and a review of their driving history. The bill does not mention fingerprinting.
The list of disqualifications includes having more than three driving violations in a three-year period or a sex offense, a DUI or a serious or violent felony in the past seven years.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and four Western Washington senators, passed out of the transportation committee on a 10-3 vote, and now goes to the rules committee for a second reading.
The reason we bring that up is to make the point that if Uber and Lyft were willing to leave a city the size of Austin … over this fingerprinting requirement, Pasco’s concern may not be on their radar.
Pasco Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel
It would impose a 10-cent per trip passenger surcharge fee to cover the costs of enforcement and regulation of transportation network company licensing. Once the state has covered its costs, the rest of those fees would be distributed to each city or county where a trip originated.
It does not apply to other ride services, such as taxis, limousines and commuter ride-sharing vehicles.
Currently, all taxi drivers in Pasco must be fingerprinted as part of their business license application. It involves a $5 fee at the Pasco Police Department.
Kennewick and Richland did not include the fingerprint clause in their ordinances passed last year.
Pasco Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel said the two largest companies, Uber and Lyft, resist fingerprint requirements and make few exceptions.
But Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger told his council that fingerprints are a “foolproof way of identifying who you are.”
He has said that his signature will go on the business license, so he wants to be able to ensure passengers are getting into a car with a driver whose identity and background is verified by police.
When the Austin, Texas, council imposed the fingerprinting for drivers, the rideshare companies went to voters with a referendum, but it was rejected at the ballot box.
As a result, Uber and Lyft stopped operating in the city of 885,000 but seven other transportation network companies agreed to the council’s requirements, Strebel said.
I think it’s a service that is necessary because as we grow, as we develop and bring more people into the airport and provide the tourism here in the Tri-Cities, I think it’s imperative that we have these type of services come in.
Pasco Councilman Saul Martinez
“The reason we bring that up is to make the point that if Uber and Lyft were willing to leave a city the size of Austin … over this fingerprinting requirement, Pasco’s concern may not be on their radar,” Strebel told the council.
City staff maintains there is virtually no practical substitute for fingerprints to verify someone’s identity, he said. Other documents like a passport or enhanced driver’s license may be considered comparable, but neither requires fingerprints.
Pasco notified Uber officials last month of the council’s vote and didn’t hear back from the San Francisco-based company.
“I, for the life of me, don’t understand why Uber has to be doing this,” said Councilman Saul Martinez. “Obviously, they don’t have to. They don’t have a financial need. They can live without the Tri-Cities obviously, and we’re just not significant for them.”
Martinez said he doesn’t respect the company for what they’re doing, yet recognizes that a large part of the community wants the service.
He said it’s not fair to make taxi drivers be fingerprinted while removing that requirement for other for-hire transportation companies, but said they should do that so citizens can decide on their own what level of identity verification they want in a driver.
“I think it’s a service that is necessary because as we grow, as we develop and bring more people into the airport and provide the tourism here in the Tri-Cities, I think it’s imperative that we have these type of services come in,” Martinez said.
He said people have told him they’re disappointed in the long wait times for taxi service in the Tri-Cities. In one case, his family knows someone who was hit by a drunk driver because that driver apparently couldn’t find a taxi to take him home.
Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said it is bad policy for the city to set certain requirements on one group of drivers and not on others, when both are providing basically the same service.