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New car service rolls into Columbia

People in Columbia have another option if they don’t want to get behind the wheel. Uber is a smart phone app that connects passengers with drivers who use their own cars. Uber said it doesn’t consider itself a taxi service, but some of the taxi companies in town said it is and they think Uber should have to play by the same rules.

Uber drivers began picking up their first customers at 11Thursday morning. Uber calls itself a ride sharing service. Terry Nickerson Sr., owner of Taxi Terry’s, said Uber is a taxi service similar to his and so it should follow the same laws. “Bring ’em on. But make them abide by the same rules and regulations that we abide by. If you make the playing field even,” said Nickerson Sr.

A number of city laws govern taxi companies in Columbia. Taxi companies must have a business license. There has to be a business location based in the city limits. All vehicles need to be inspected, among other stipulations. City officials said Uber car service isn’t complying with many of the stipulations.

Uber said the ride sharing concept is in its infancy and is trying to find its own way. “We’re already working with the city on how that will be defined and we’re looking forward to that process but it’s definitely a different from the way taxi companies have operated,” said Poonet Kant, Uber general manager of regional expansion.

City officials said they intend to create a new class of business for companies like Uber. In the meantime, officials said they will draft a temporary operating agreement, which will be presented to the City Council in a couple of weeks.

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