Birmingham City Council gives Uber the green light

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After a months-long push to allow Magic City residents to hail rides from the popular ridesharing app Uber, Birmingham City Council voted to approve an ordinance that would do just that on Tuesday.

Representatives from the firm lauded the move popular service, along with competitors like Lyft, to open up shop in Alabama’s largest city within weeks.

“Today’s action by the City Council is a win for riders, drivers and the city of Birmingham. We thank Council President Austin for his leadership, and look forward to bringing safe rides and economic opportunity to the Magic City in the coming weeks,” said Tom Maguire, General Manager for Uber’s operations in Alabama.

Under the just-passed ordinance approved by a vote of 7-1, Maguire said he hopes Uber can begin offering rides as soon as the end of 2015.

The ordinance – which Uber urged users to support via an in-app appeal – came with a last-minute amendment offered during the meeting.

The amendment created a six-month provisional window during which the city will evaluate the status of safety, taxation, and other municipal concerns.

City Councilors Valerie Abbott voted no, while Councilor Kim Rafferty abstained.

Council President Johnathan Austin came out in support of the bill, after missing a meeting last month that had to shut down for lack of a quorum. Austin blamed the poor turnout by members on the the meeting’s proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Councilors Lashunda ScalesValerie Abbott, William ParkerSheila TysonJay RobersonSteven Hoyt, and Marcus Lundy also voted in the affirmative.

The move came after about an hour and a half of debate, including some questions about city legal staff about how Uber’s vetting process for drivers. The amendment creating the six-month review period quelled those and other questions nay-sayers presented Tuesday.

The ordinance doesn’t go into effect immediately, however. Birmingham Mayor William Bell – who had signaled his support for ridesharing in the past – must sign it in order for it to take force. Ride-hailing firms must then apply for and receive licenses for prospective drivers.

The smaller municipalities of Homewood and Mountain Brook also recently passed ordinances to allow Uber et al. to operate within those city limits, making Birmingham the third city in the Yellowhammer State to open its roads to the services, though provisionally, at least for now.

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