Recently, the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) has begun to seriously talk about compromising with ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber in an effort to get these services in the area. Saint Louis is now the largest metropolitan area in the United States without cheap ridesharing options.
As of last month, the MTC demanded drug tests, specific background checks, and stringent insurance requirements before any ridesharing company could set up in Saint Louis City or County. Since that time, the MTC has backed down on drug testing and has stated that it believes it can resolve issues surrounding insurance. Background checks, including fingerprinting, is the most intransigent remaining problem. In past meetings, the MTC held that Uber’s checks were inadequate. Now the MTC says the main problem is state law:
Fingerprint-Based Criminal Background Checks—Uber is adamant that its own proprietary, Internet-based criminal background checks are more thorough, detailed and reliable than those conducted by law enforcement and based on fingerprint scans of driver applicants. We [MTC] can argue back and forth as to which position is correct. But it matters little what MTC thinks, or what Uber desires. Fingerprint-based criminal background checks conducted by the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are the law of the land. And Missouri statutes governing the MTC mandate such checks.
Uber has stated that its own background checks are thorough, and the MTC’s checks may prevent UberX from entering the Saint Louis market.
This post cannot comment on whether the MTC’s interpretation of the law is correct. However, if state law governing the MTC does need to change to allow more flexible background checks, state policymakers should consider such a reform. There is no reason Saint Louis residents cannot decide for themselves whether Uber’s background checks meet their needs.
Should the state legislature decide to reform laws governing the MTC, there is no reason to stop at background check requirements. They should consider eliminating provisions that require four of nine MTC commissioners to be taxi industry representatives. They could also curtail the regulatory powers of the commission to consumer protection provisions, which is all the MTC says it wants anyway. However, given the past performance of the MTC and its recent dysfunction, perhaps the best reform state legislators could make would be to disband the body altogether.