It’s always refreshing when Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly play well together. We don’t hear about such instances very often — reporters are drawn to conflict — but I suspect they occur more frequently than we hear about.
An illuminating instance is how legislators from the two parties collaborated to create what Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, calls a “comprehensive legal framework” for Transportation Network Companies (or TNCs) popularized by Uber and Lyft.
Writing in Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, McClellan detailed several bills enacted in the 2017 session with bipartisan input. If signed by the governor, the legislation will accomplish the following:
- Lower up-front fees. TNCs will have a new option for applying for certificates. Instead of paying the existing up-front fee of $100,000 upon application, businesses can pay a $20 surcharge per record when purchasing driver transcripts. This measure will make it easier for smaller, less capitalized companies.
- Less red tape for drivers. A requirement will be removed for TNC drivers to register personal vehicles for use as a TNC partner vehicle. State Police can recognize another state’s annual motor vehicle safety inspection in lieu of Virginia’s.
- Brokering rides. Third-party companies will be allowed to broker TNC rides. This measure responds to a request by Richmond-area startup, UZURV, which piggybacks on Uber and Lyft by allowing passengers to reserve rides with specific drivers.
- Robot deliveries. London-based Starship Technologies wants to make deliveries in cooler-sized robots, which can travel up to four miles (round trip) and can navigate sidewalks, shared-use paths and crosswalk. These “Electronic Personal Delivery Devices” will become legal.
- Less red tape for property carriers. Some requirements regarding property carriers and bulk property carriers will be eliminated.
The TNC revolution will prove a fertile field for innovation, and the more Virginia does to loosen regulatory restrictions (within the bounds of protecting public safety and creating a level playing field), the more innovation we will see. Companies like Starship will set up shop in Virginia before investing in states where their service is illegal. Entrepreneurs like UZURV will spring up to build on the Uber revolution. And Virginia consumers will benefit from options they never imagined having before.
Now, if the legislature can just figure out what to do with AirBnB…