House Bill 1084, which seeks to transfer and centralize authorization, supervision and regulation of public transportation, including taxis and UBER drivers, to the Public Service Commission should be approved this week, House Government Committee Chair Rep. Jorge Navarro said.
The measure will allow the PSC to regulate commercial transportation catering to tourists on the island, to adjust the regulations of this sector and end the public — and sometimes violent — disputes between taxi drivers and UBER.
“The first thing we’re considering is to combine the three existing regulations at the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the Tourism Company and the PSC regarding UBER,” Navarro said.
The changes include strengthening the security of gas transport on the island and eliminate fines owed by truckers to recharge and use the Autoexpreso service on island toll roads.
“Because the PSC has administrative judges who can see the cases that arise avoids what happens presently — that it can take up to 12 years to resolve complaints in this sector. We want a quick PSC, with decisional power, administrative judges can see and execute on cases when filed,” Navarro said, noting he hopes to have the bill ready for a vote at the House and Senate before June 25.
“It will contain significant amendments that are part of what has been discussed in public hearings. There has been talk of relaxing it and amending the map of tourist areas that UBER and taxi drivers can access,” Navarro said.
“We’re analyzing allowing UBER to enter tourist areas, as it happened in New York and in other countries where they could coexist. The PSC is working on its Regulations and is in tune with what we are discussing in joint hearings,” the lawmaker said.
On the controversy over the difference in rates, he conceded that regulations on taxi drivers may be lowered and increased for UBER drivers. He argued that this dynamic can happen because UBER has been tempered to regulations considering the country or state where it operates.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Puerto Rico Insurance Commissioner favored the passage of the measure on the grounds that the transfer is appropriate. The agency’s legal advisor, Alexander Adams, said it is possible to establish a system to approve public service companies to provide “adequate, safe and efficient transportation in Puerto Rico.”
“We are ready to cooperate with the House on the evaluation and creation of an appropriate insurance program for each type of transport license or commercial service provided by the PSC, to maximize the safety of the users of these services, public road safety, and the general public’s welfare,” Adams said.
Meanwhile, Zoraida Rodríguez, who represented UBER, said that throughout the world, including Puerto Rico, it has been recognized that transportation network companies are different from other modes of transportation.
She stressed that the practice used in New York to get the fingerprints of their drivers can be discriminatory, especially if they have served their sentence and need to work.
Navarro responded that passenger safety must be considered, while being fair to people who have paid their due to society and need an opportunity to work.
“This angle must be analyzed because the person sitting in that vehicle has to feel safe,” he said.