Movement to bring Uber to Birmingham building momentum fast

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A weeks-long organized effort to bring ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to Birmingham seems poised to cross the goal line in the near future.

An outpouring of public support both from citizens – including via “Draft Uber”-style drive on social media – had been reciprocated by elected officials. City Council President Johnathan Austin declared yesterday that the city “definitely wants” Uber in town.

Mayor William Bell has also signified his support, and has agreed to an expedited process that will accelerate the drafting and passage of a pro-ridesharing city ordinance.

A spokesperson for Uber confirmed the progress on Thursday.

“Based on today’s conversation, we’re optimistic that City Council is on a path towards bringing ridesharing to Birmingham,” a spokeswoman told Alabama Today.  “We thank Council President Austin for his leadership, and look forward to working with City Council on an ordinance that aligns with the nearly 50 US jurisdictions with pro-innovation, pro-consumer ridesharing regulations.”

Negotiation with the Magic City’s municipal government occurred last summer as well, but the two sides could not come to an agreement so talks fizzled.

Talks broke down along lines familiar to those who have watched the ridehailing vs. taxis political/regulatory food fight that has occurred across the country – background checks, insurance requirements and taxes.

Uber recently staged a unilateral pullout in South Florida’s Broward County after commissioners there attempted to fold ridesharing services – with some minor tweaks – into regulatory scaffolding that governs taxi cabs there. Representatives from Uber said that was not fair, because their business model is entirely different.

Back in July local businessman Bill Smith – CEO of grocery delivery service Shipt – started a GoFundMe page to raise money for pro-Uber advocacy efforts. The drive surpassed its $10,000 goal easily.

Council President Austin said Wednesday he hopes to have the new rules allowing for Uber and similar services to operate in Birmingham within one month from yesterday’s meeting of the city Transportation Committee.

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