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Baker: Uber and Lyft can continue to operate while state crafts rules for industry

An Uber app.Reuters/ Lucy Nicholson

Rideshare companies including Lyft and Uber can continue to operate in Massachusetts while the state’s Department of Public Utilities discusses how best to regulate the industry, Gov. Charlie Baker said today.

Baker’s come under pressure to devise rules for the rideshare companies after a series of incidents involving Uber drivers.

In December, a Boston Uber driver was charged with kidnapping and raping a Cambridge woman. Last month, a Boston police officer was charged with assaulting an Uber driver and hurling racial slurs at him in Southie.

Local cab companies have been pushing for tighter regulation, saying the public’s safety could be at risk if rideshare drivers and their cars can avoid the screening imposed on licensed taxis.

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Rules that took effect last month allow a six-month grace period while Massachusetts constructs a licensing framework.

The state’s aim is to ensure “the enhanced safety of drivers and riders,” said Baker. He wants a permanent licensing structure to allow for the both consumer choice and public safety with proper background checks of drivers, proper safety checks of the rideshare vehicles and adequate insurance in the event of an accident.

“Uber and Lyft present a real opportunity for our evolving transportation ecosystem,” Baker said in a statement. “We also have responsibility to step up to ensure consumer choice and public safety prevail.”

 
 
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