On Tuesday, Zimmer released a statement calling on the state legislature to pass a bill that would create a licensing system for the taxi alternatives, including required background checks and insurance for drivers. Uber currently operates illegally in New Jersey. In the statement, Zimmer said she had supported the change since April.
Under Hoboken city laws, only licensed taxis may pick up passengers. Zimmer’s spokesperson said Tuesday that the municipal code can only be changed after state laws are corrected.
“Uber and similar companies offer a valuable transportation option that we want to make available to Hoboken residents and visitors,” said Zimmer in the statement. “Since April, I have been advocating to our state elected officials to ensure that this transportation option can operate safely and lawfully in our community.”
A bill introduced by State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack (D-33) on June 26 would create a new licensing system for ridesharing services, requiring each company to hold an insurance policy with $1 million of coverage for each incident involving a driver. Drivers offering their cars for ridesharing would be required to pass a driver license record check, criminal background check, and safety inspection.
In April, Zimmer wrote a letter to Stack and State Assemblymen Raj Mukherji and Carmelo Garcia (D-33) asking them to support legislation that would allow rideshare vehicles to be licensed in the state and operate legally.
Uber and its competitor Lyft “are using technology to create new transportation options,” wrote Zimmer in the letter, “and it is important that legislation adapt to these new technologies.”
Zimmer added that ridesharing “can facilitate car-free living and provide the ‘last mile’ of connectivity between public transportation and our homes and businesses.”
Uber is a service that riders can use via an application on their cellphones. A driver often responds within minutes and takes riders to their destination, with the fare paid automatically from their credit card. The fares are often (but not always) similar to cab fares, and passengers don't usually tip. Drivers often work for Uber as a second job and must own a car that is only a few years old.
Hoboken’s municipal code currently allows only licensed taxi drivers to operate vehicles for hire. It also bans unlicensed taxicabs from picking up passengers “for a destination within the city limits.”
Melli said Hoboken will be “preparing legislation to accommodate these new transportation models so that we are ready to act if and when the state adopts their legislation.”
According to drivers and riders interviewed by NJ.com, the Hoboken Police Department has been vigilant about stopping suspected Uber vehicles and forcing passengers to leave, sometimes writing tickets for drivers carrying heavy fines.
But taxi drivers in Hoboken say ridesharing is destroying their business, and the city isn’t doing enough to stop it.
Hoboken taxi driver Julio Cruz told NJ.com, "the city of Hoboken needs to send an email to the company Uber, [saying] 'Don't send your cars over here.'"