Des Moines Proposes New Taxi Ordinance

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The City of Des Moines is considering classifying all vehicles for hire under one code ordinance.  Jennifer McCoy, City Traffic  Engineer presented the proposed new code to a City Council workshop Monday morning.

The new ordinance could make life easier for transportation service Uber after concerns were raised when they first launched in Des Moines last September.

McCoy offered a new definition for vehicles for hire:  "A business entity that offers vehicle transportation services, including but not limited to limousine or taxi cab services with or without the use of a digital platform," said McCoy reading from the proposed ordinance.

Under the proposal, the city would no longer issue taxi or limo licenses and would not set the rates. McCoy said that all companies must only charge the rate as advertised when the rider gets into the vehicle. Also, all vehicles must be identified by a decal on the outside of the vehicle. Each driver must have a visible ID card.

Drivers' backgrounds would also be checked, as would driving records for the past five years and criminal records for the past ten years. Another issue is how the cars and drivers are insured.

McCoy said $750,000 insurance would be required.   "That would cover injury death and property damage," said Mccoy.  "Insurance must cover at all times when traveling to pick up a passenger and carrying the passenger."

The ordinance also specified that no area of town be discriminated from service.   Councilman Bill Gray had a concern about method of payment being discriminatory.  "Some of our poorer neighborhoods, they only have cash, we know one of the companies accepts only Master Card, or Visa, said Gray. "Technically they are not showing discrimination, since they don't take cash, it's a discrimination to our neighborhood."

McCoy said  that had not been considered.  "That's that company's business model to operate on a non-cash basis, I don't know if there is anything we could legally require," said McCoy.

An attorney for several cab companies said he will propose an amendment to the current taxi ordinance, which would address City concerns.  William Lillis said the taxi companies serve the public 24/7  "You could have cab companies self policing themselves, and honestly taking the best part of the trips," said Willis.


Uber is currently active in over 100 cities worldwide. The new ordinance is scheduled to go before the City Council for approval on February 23rd.


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