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Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
In what has become a familiar move for Uber, the vehicle-for-hire company announced Wednesday it will cease operations in Corpus Christi, pointing to “unnecessary” regulations recently adopted by the city.
Corpus Christi’s City Council approved new regulations this week that would require app-based vehicle-for-hire drivers to undergo a fingerprint background check, a requirement Uber has resisted in most markets. The company plans to end services in Corpus Christi on Sunday, two hours before the new law goes into affect, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
“The proposed ordinance would require drivers to complete unnecessary and duplicative steps that make it difficult for them to earn extra money and hurt our ability to ensure that riders have access to reliable and affordable transportation,” Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s general manager in South and East Texas, wrote in a letter to Corpus Christi’s city council on March 4.
Corpus Christi will be the third city Uber has left this year in response to local laws. In February, the company ceased operations in Galveston and Midland after the cities voted to enact background-check requirements.
Uber threatened to make a similar move in Austin after the city council passed an ordinance in December that would require drivers to undergo fingerprint background checks. After an organization largely funded by Uber and Lyft, the company’s biggest competitor, collected more than 25,000 signatures on a petition to overturn the ordinance, the council opted to put the measure up for a vote in May.
“We know from experience in other markets that these rules can have a devastating impact on our ability to provide the experience that riders and drivers have come to love and expect,” Maredia wrote in the letter to Corpus Christi’s city leaders.
Despite Uber’s disdain for mandatory fingerprint-based background checks, the company has continued to operate in Houston, where drivers are required to undergo those background checks.
Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez said she feels Uber is more lax when it comes to accepting regulations in larger cities. Houston is Texas’ largest city with over 2 million residents. Corpus Christi, with a population of around 316,000, is the eighth largest.
“It is unfortunate that they believe that comprehensive background checks with fingerprints and safety in smaller cities are less important,” she said Wednesday. “We have been working with them since the fall of 2014, and what makes me most sad about them leaving Corpus Christi is that they are leaving loyal customers and drivers who depend on them.”
Martinez said she would welcome the company back in the future but would “absolutely not” consider softening the ordinance — specifically the biometric fingerprinting requirement.
“It is my hope that they would see the loyalty of not only their drivers but of their customers in Corpus Christi and do the right thing,” she said.
Lyft offers services in Corpus Christi and has made no announcement indicating their service will change as a result of the law. Lyft has previously said it does not operate in cities that require drivers to be fingerprinted.
Supporters of fingerprint background checks have argued that they are necessary because the third-party background checks used by companies like Uber and Lyft are not thorough enough.
Disclosure: Uber and Lyft have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
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