Uber shifting gears over new Colorado Public Utilities Commission proposition

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission's proposed transportation rules have Uber shifting gears for a fight. Uber's main concern is an amendment to section 6309, which makes it illegal for any luxury limousine carrier to be within 200 feet of a hotel, restaurant or bar without a chartered order, effectively making Lodo, Cherry Creek and other high volume neighborhoods off-limits to Uber's drivers.

Following the January 11 public release of the proposed rule changes, UberDenver, an app-based car-service dispatcher, has been working with the PUC to resolve the situation, but to no avail.

"The proposed rules changes are a significant threat to Uber's core business and our partner-drivers. If these proposed rules changes, were to be enacted they would shut UberDenver down" said Will McCollum, the company's general manager.

Acting as an Expedia.com-like middleman, Uber's app connects customers with available car services cars for rides. Just as Expedia.com aggregates hotel rooms allowing the consumer to pick, Uber, using GPS software, allows clients to locate and request available cars in their area. Once the client has chosen a car, Uber dispatches the order to the driver for pick up. With an average ETA of 7.5 minutes and prices averaging 15 percent higher than a traditional taxi, the Uber client base has grown rapidly since launching in September.

The proposed rule changes are result of an annual issues cleanup at the close of every legislative session, according to Terry Bote, PUC spokesman. He also stresses that towing and other transportation carriers will be affected by the rules changes as well.

"The changes would prohibit, luxury limousines acting as taxi companies, sitting outside of hotels soliciting business," he says.

Bote also feels these changes could benefit Uber, because drivers won't have to wait by the curb for business.

McCollum disagrees. "What are they (drivers) supposed to do? Not drive around downtown?" he asks.

If the rule went into effect, drivers would have to log off the app, leave downtown and other urban areas, then turn the app back on to receive requests from Uber, leaving their drivers an undesirable distance from clients for pickup, he maintains. In his view, the delays make the Uber business model ineffective and could put the drivers out of business.

"Uber saved my business," says Randy Eddy, owner of a car service called A Dandy One Limousine.

Since teaming up with Uber, Eddy has gone from three to eight full-time drivers and added another vehicle. Last week alone, 59 percent of his customers were Uber clients.

Comments on the new rules are due by February 11 and a public hearing at the PUC is scheduled for March 11.

Uber is calling on its client base, concerned citizens and legal team to fight the proposed rules.

"We believe that we can get this situation resolved and continue to offer Denver a safe, reliable and stylish way to get around town," McCollum said.

More from our Business archive: "Photos: 300 Blockbusters closing in weeks, no word yet how many in Colorado."

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