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Business and Economy

Even With Downtown Parking Woes, Oklahoma City Still Opposes Rideshare Regulations

Taxis are parked outside Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
/
The Journal Record
Taxis are parked outside Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

The ride-sharing industry in Oklahoma has gone largely unregulated since Uber first arrived in Oklahoma City in 2013. The services have been challenged by limousine and taxi operators, but there’s little in the way of formal rules for how Uber, or its major competitor Lyft, can operate.

House Bill 1614 would change that. Whenever a driver turns on the app and are transporting or picking up passengers, a $1 million liability insurance policy would apply.

But Oklahoma City is standing in the way and actively opposing the measure by state Rep. Katie Henke, according to The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt:

Provisions of HB 1614 are more lax than Oklahoma City’s local rules, Uber Oklahoma Director Adam Dries said. Instead of regulating drivers as independent contractors, he said, they’re regulated like taxi drivers. “There are several onerous requirements, but the most onerous is driver partners must get three vehicle inspections, which we think is burdensome and unnecessary, especially considering a majority of these people partner with ride-share companies on a part-time basis,” Dries said.

“Henke thinks that a statewide framework is better because drivers are frequently crossing city boundaries, and it'd be very hard to know where one starts, where one stops,” said Journal Record managing editor Adam Brooks. “It would make it harder for them to know what fares they could pick up. And really, it would just be onerous to keep up with these different fees and regulations, especially for part-time drivers.”

One reason for the surge in popularity of these ride-sharing services is the dwindling availability of places to put all the cars we already have. On Monday, Oklahoma City announced the delayed MAPS 3 convention center led to the pushing back of a study analyzing downtown’s parking issues.

The Arts District parking garage at 431 W. Main St. in Oklahoma City.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record
/
The Journal Record
The Arts District parking garage at 431 W. Main St. in Oklahoma City.

Brooks says it’s a Catch-22.

“People complain about the lack of parking, but it's still really cheap to park in downtown Oklahoma City, and people expect that,” Brooks said. “That makes it really hard to generate a business case to build a private garage, or even a public one.”

So Oklahoma City officials are trying to convince developers that new building plans also require enough spaces for visitors and occupants. Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City president and CEO Cathy O’Connor told The Journal Record's ?Brian Brus city leaders hope rising parking rates could make it more economical to build a private structure:

O’Connor said Monday that the recent pricing conflict is actually a good thing, allowing city leaders to take a fresh look at how parking demand downtown is shaping up. “Depending on where the convention center garage is sited, we might be able to build a bigger garage to help provide some extra public parking for downtown office workers or events,” she said. “Or we might be able to build a smaller garage and satellite garages at several different places.”

EMBARK, the group that handles public transportation in Oklahoma City, is exploring options to provide shuttles to downtown travelers. They did the same thing when a 785-space parking garage was shut down for renovations to the Century Center.

The Cox Convention Center has about 1,000 parking spaces. O’Connor said the new center and adjacent hotel would need a base of about 1,500 spaces to support activity there. According to the parking authority’s monthly report, downtown parking garages overall are operating at more than full capacity, with a waiting list of up to three years for openings. The recently opened 800-space garage near City Hall barely made a dent in demand, said Michael Scroggins, spokesman for the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, now operating as EMBARK. As for the parking study, Scroggins said, “It was put on hold because we need to know where the convention center is going to go, so we’ll know the feasibility of parking structures nearby and consider other development around it.”

Editor's note: EMBARK is an underwriter of KGOU's programming.

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The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

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