Today the Commonwealth of Virginia reached a temporary agreement with Uber and Lyft, both of which provide ridesharing services via their apps. Under the terms of the agreement, both companies have been granted broker's licenses and are allowed to operate provided they meet a number of conditions, which are outlined in today's press release from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.
Uber and Lyft have both praised the agreement, which comes two months after the Virginia DMV issued the companies cease and desist letters.
It is welcome news that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring have worked out an agreement with Uber and Lyft. However, the agreement is temporary and lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S. need to implement permanent legislation that allows for innovative companies such as Uber and Lyft to fairly compete against taxis, as R Street Institute policy analyst Zach Graves stated in a news release:
Public interest advocates should be wary that this is only a temporary measure, and the battle over transportation services regulation in Virginia is certain to come up again in the 2015 legislative session. Ultimately, policymakers in Virginia and other states need to advance legislation that offers permanent legalization for all transportation network companies, without imposing additional anti-competitive regulations at the behest of the Taxi industry.
The concluding paragraph of the attorney general's press release mentions that that the Virginia DMV is conducting a study as part of working towards such legislation:
Virginia DMV is currently leading a study at the request of the General Assembly to developing [sic] a long-term legislative solution that addresses services provided by Uber, Lyft, and similar companies, while also ensuring a level playing field for taxicabs and all other passenger transportation services. The study is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2015 legislative session. This temporary authority agreement can serve as a foundation for potential legislation and will also provide valuable data on the operations of these companies as legislation is crafted.
Let's hope that the Virginia DMV does propose a solution that really would level the playing field. Companies like Uber and Lyft do, thanks to their business model, occupy mostly uncharted regulatory territory. It would be good to see Virginia among the first U.S. jurisdictions to successfully adapt to the rise of the so-called sharing economy, which will continue to grow.