Ashland comes to a final vote to allow Uber, Lyft into the city

Ashland comes to a final vote to allow Uber, Lyft into the city.

After months of study, council voting, amendments, and a mayoral veto, the Ashland City Council voted on Tueday night to allow 'transportation network companies', such as Uber and Lyft, to operate in the city.

This vote has been a long time in the making and those on both sides have spoken out, getting the council’s attention with arguments for and against the ordinance.

Those opposed believe the lack of government administered background checks and fingerprinting worries them. Under the ordinance, the city had to change the policies currently in place for transportation companies like taxis to match the demands of the TNCs. Opponents also say it could run the taxi companies out of business in a community that’s based on keeping business local.

Those in favor of the ordinance say it could create jobs and provide more flexibility for people than other services currently offer.

Barbara Massey is one of those proponents, who at 95-years-old still lives an active life. Massey is eager to see TNCs in city limits to allow her more opportunity to get out of the house.

“Spontaneity is absolutely gone from my life,” Massey said. “There’s no such thing as if I’m baking something and I don’t have cinnamon or whatever, I can’t just go down to the store and get it.”

Massey no longer drives herself places. She says the driving services currently offered in Ashland haven’t offered her the flexibility she needs to live her life. She says there are a lot of people in her community that are in the same situation, who want to get out and stay active, but feel restricted by the services they depend on to do so. However, those services offer their own concerns.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Nancy Buffington, owner of Cascade Airport Shuttle, expressed concern about the city changing its background check and fingerprinting standards to accommodate the companies.

“Where’s the safety? Why do we have to change our regulations once again to support a large corporation to come into our community if they can’t abide by the safety standards that we’ve had in place that have worked very well,” Buffington said.

With lingering concerns, Councilor Rich Rosenthal asked his counterparts to revisit the ordinance one year from now.

“Ordinances can be modified." Rosenthal said. "The genie is out of the bottle. At least we can do a follow up to see if - and maybe there won’t be any issues or opportunities - but it would be nice to have that discussion,”

Rosenthal is one of the two council members in opposition joined by Councilor Tonya Graham.

Now that the city has opened to TNCs, those companies may come forward and decide to operate in city limits. Nothing is guaranteed, but with Ashland modeling their ordinance after Medford’s and making amendments as needed, the city has worked to satisfy the companies’ ideal factors.

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