City officials in Braintree balked Tuesday at pursuing new regulations for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
The licensing board in the city decided to wait and see what state legislators decide to do when they vote on a new package of regulations in the fall, rather than try to make new citywide rules on its own. The vote to table discussion on the idea, which got its start three months ago, was unanimous.
Braintree would have become the first in the state to crack down on ride-hailing apps by requiring that drivers get permits and meet certain minimums for insurance coverage and background checks.
The bold move attracted attention to the Town Hall meeting from media, Uber top brass and at least one taxi business owner.
The board could have voted Tuesday to pursue new rules – a two-to-three-month bureaucratic process, according to James Casey, town clerk and board chairman. A vote to move the rule-making process forward would have also allowed demonstrators a chance to speak at a podium.
Uber East Coast General Manager Meghan Joyce, who is based in Boston and is from Braintree, said she was happy with the outcome of the meeting.
“I think the decision … is absolutely the right one for both riders and drivers in the Town of Braintree,” Joyce told Metro. “They will continue to have both plentiful transportation options and also job opportunities that ridesharing provides.”
State lawmakers were scheduled to take up a bill that would regulate ridesharing statewide in September.
In May, board members voted 4-1 to send a cease and desist order to ridesharing companies operating in the city. The ban was later put on hold.
The board bowed to political pressure, said Jenifer Pinkham, a lawyer representing Braintree Best Taxi. At Tuesday’s meeting, Casey said approximately 100 opponents of a ban on ridesharing reached out to the board.
“Things have changed and now they’re changing their votes,” Pinkham told Metro. “They’re caving in, unfortunately.”
More than a dozen Uber drivers from the Braintree area demonstrated outside the city’s Town Hall before the meeting. The drivers told Metro they came out because they either heard reports in the media or received texts from other Uber employees about the rally.
An Uber representative told Metro one or two riders who were not Uber employees had also been there to demonstrate.
Uber drivers – some of whom said they worked part-time, others full-time - told Metro they thought it was wrong to make rules about ridesharing on a town-by-town basis. They said regulations should be made at the state level, or not at all.
“It’s a backwards move. I don’t want to be the only town in the state” to crack down on ridesharing, said Tom Kent, a 30-year-old nursing student who said he drives for Uber 16 hours per week and didn’t want to see regulations change. “I think it’s fine the way it is.”