New measure puts Uber back before Anchorage Assembly

A screenshot of the Uber app on an iPhone taken in 2014.

A new measure going before the Anchorage Assembly could clear the way for app-based ride services in the coming year.

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Anchorage Assembly member Bill Evans wrote the ordinance, which seeks to regulate what are called Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

Those include the likes of Uber and Lyft, among others.

According to Evans, one reason for the measure is that the city’s transportation code was written before smart-phones and start-up companies began disrupting the taxi industry in cities across the world.

The ordinance requires TNC drivers to have insurance, makes the companies conduct background checks on drivers and includes a once yearly fee for operating in Anchorage.

“If Uber comes to town, that’s what Uber has to pay: $15,000 to operate all their vehicles,” Evans explained.

Uber operated in Anchorage from September 2014 to March of 2015, when an Anchorage judge ordered the company to either continue offering its rides for free, comply with all local taxi rules or cease operations.

A separate fight broke out in the state capital after the state Division of Insurance ruled Uber and other TNCs could not operate in Alaska until they had secured worker’s compensation insurance. The ruling was based on a view of drivers as employees, not contractors, as Uber claimed.

That interpretation could become a moot point. A bill in the state Senate from Anchorage Republican Mia Costello could change that provision in state law. If that senate bill passes, it’ll pave the way for the local measure.

“From what I understand there are no TNCs in town, or in Alaska, unless that is addressed,” Evans said.

The local taxi industry has heavily opposed allowing TNC’s in Anchorage, as well as a move last year by the Assembly to create more taxi permits.

During public testimony, dozens of drivers told the Assembly they are barely able to make a living in the current situation, which they say will only worsen with more taxis on the road.

Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska.

@ZachHughesAK About Zachariah

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