Uber, Lyft Now Legal in D.C.

D.C. Taxicabs in a honking convoy along the Connecticut Avenue underpass.

D.C. Taxicabs in a honking convoy protest in October along the Connecticut Avenue underpass.

App-based ride services like Uber and Lyft are now legally able to operate in the District of Columbia thanks to a 12 to 1 vote by the District Council in favor of The Vehicle-for-Hire Innovation Act of 2014.

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Coucilwoman Mary Cheh (D, Ward 3), chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, along with Councilman David Grosso (I, At-Large) introduced the bill in May and on Oct. 28 the full council voted on the legislation, which provides oversight of the previously unregulated new industry of app-based vehicles for-hire. All councilmembers except Councilman Jim Graham (D, Ward 1) voted in favor of the legislation; Graham said the law was unfair to traditional  taxicab drivers.

The new law requires liability insurance standards, background checks and vehicle inspections of drivers including UberX and Lyft drivers who use their personal vehicles.

Drivers are required to hold primary liability insurance whenever a driver partner has the app on, but has not accepted a ride covering: at least $50,000 per person per accident, $100,000 to all persons per accident and $25,000 for property damage. The company must provide primary liability insurance up to $1 million from the moment a driver accepts a ride request through the completion of the ride. These requirements are in addition to personal automobile insurance requirements.

Uber celebrated the bill’s passage in a blog post:

“We are thrilled to announce that the Council has passed a comprehensive ridesharing framework, providing a permanent home for uberX in the District. With this legislation, DC has become a trailblazer in the transportation industry by embracing innovation, supporting consumer choice and empowering small business owners.”

Drivers are not covered under their company insurance policies when they are driving without the app on, a point of contention for taxicab drivers who are required to register as commercial vehicles and hold liability insurance at all times. Taxicab drivers protested the new law again after its passage.

UberX coverage infographic. Image courtesy of Uber.

UberX coverage infographic. Image courtesy of Uber.

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