ELIZABETH — The city council on Tuesday voted to forbid ride-hailing companies from operating at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal A and at both Elizabeth train stations.
The mayor, though, has said the city would not administer any ban on Uber and similar services at the terminal, which rests on land owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. After the agency argued it had sole jurisdiction over the terminal’s operations, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said the ordinance was “unenforceable” as written.
The council forged ahead to approve the ordinance unanimously Tuesday, eliciting cheers and a standing ovation from dozens of taxi drivers who showed up to the meeting in union t-shirts.
In addition to restricting ride-hailing companies’ pick-up locations, the ordinance obligates companies and drivers to pay fees, and it requires a police investigation and three references for each driver.
Council president Nelson Gonzalez said the regulation aims to increase public safety and the city is obligated to protect its residents.
The ordinance is “symbolic,” he said, even if the ban at the airport terminal is unworkable. He added that he thought the Port Authority’s position was unjust.
“We have an ordinance, and we have state laws, regulating taxi cabs, limousines and many other forms of transportation at the airport for many years,” Gonzalez said. “Something doesn’t seem fair about this to me.”
As for the fees the ordinance imposes on ride-hailing companies and their drivers, he noted that Uber is worth $40 billion.
“If Uber decides they don’t want to pay the annual licensing fees and ensure adequate liability coverage for the vehicles used to transport passengers and [they] leave, they will do so of their own volition, not because we’re chasing them out,” he said.
After the meeting, taxi union representative Hector Corchado said the council “sent a message to the world” by choosing to regulate ride-hailing companies.
The Port Authority told city officials Tuesday that Elizabeth has no jurisdiction over Terminal A’s operations.
Uber spokesman Craig Ewer said the company was disappointed by the outcome and hoped the state legislature would soon develop consistent regulations across New Jersey.
“We will be reviewing our options as this ordinance is considered by the mayor for approval,” he said.
The state legislature focused its attention on ride-hailing companies Monday, when Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Joseph Kyrillos (R-13) introduced a bill that would implement consistent regulations across the state.
The proposal includes a requirement that each driver undergo a background check and have $1.5 million in liability coverage. The bill would also enable the state Motor Vehicle Commission and the Division of Consumer Affairs to examine ride-hailing companies’ records to make sure they are acting legally.