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Manchester Officials, Uber Consider Compromise Over Ride-Booking

Brady Carlson
Manchester is one of a number of US cities weighing whether to overhaul its regulations to allow ride-booking services such as Uber to operate.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas says the city's police chief will meet this week with Uber representatives to review the company's policies on vetting drivers. That could mean the city and the ride-booking company could find a compromise over Uber's presence in Manchester.

Last week Uber’s future in the Queen City did not look promising. The board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 10 to 3 to require ride-sharing drivers to adhere to the city’s taxi regulations. Those regulations require drivers to undergo state background checks, which Uber has sharply opposed. The company wants to keep driver vetting as an in-house process. 

Uber's New Hampshire general manager, Billy Guernier, described the Manchester vote as "a step in the wrong direction, going against the best interests of Manchester drivers and riders."

There were concerns the standoff would prompt Uber to withdraw from Manchester. But Guernier said the company was "committed to continue working with officials to ensure Uber remains a part of Manchester's transportation ecosystem." And Mayor Ted Gatsas told the New Hampshire Union Leader the city's police chief would meet with Uber representatives to review the company’s policies on vetting drivers.

Manchester’s ride-booking backers see the latest developments as good news. Mike Skelton, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, says many cities have found a way to craft new regulations for new companies like Uber. “Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Chattanooga," Skelton says. "They’re all good-sized cities that have adopted the ride-sharing ordinance, allowing a business model like Uber’s to work, and also ensuring that there’s proper safety regulation, background checks, [and] drug testing.”

The Chamber has launched a "Save Uber in Manchester" campaign on Facebook. Skelton says that's because city businesses see Uber’s presence as a way to help attract and recruit young workers. “Having an amenity like Uber that really caters to that demographic is really an advantage, the fact that we have a dynamic and growing business community and we’re welcoming to young professionals.”

Meanwhile, Portsmouth has extended an operating window for that city’s Uber drivers, as officials try to craft a ride-sharing ordinance.

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