LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS Mid-City resident Aaron Soileau says getting a cab in New Orleans can be tough.

'A lot of times they don't even come to Uptown or Mid-City,' said Soileau. 'A lot of times if I try calling them to tell them ahead of time I need a cab they won't come.'

That's why he's excited New Orleans will soon see a controversial, new, for-hire car service called Uber.

After months of heated debate, the City Council narrowly voted Thursday afternoon to pave the way for Uber by reducing minimum fees and dropping minimum time requirements for luxury for-hire vehicles.

Uber is an app that allows users to see for-hire vehicles in their area and request one with the push of a button.

The eased requirements allow Uber Black, a luxury sedan and limo service, to enter New Orleans. Uber plans to work with drivers at existing limo companies to drive who are interested in driving for Uber Black in their downtime.

But the city says the conversation doesn't end there.

'I think what we expect over the next few months is really looking at the entire limo, taxi and for hire industry,' said Ryan Berni, advisor to the mayor.

'We want to see other options and more choice for consumers in New Orleans. Really that's what we're all about,' said Tom Hayes, Uber New Orleans general manager.

More choice could mean allowing another service, Uber X, to enter the market. Freelance drivers can pick up fares in their personal vehicles without a commercial license. Berni confirms the city is considering whether and how to allow Uber X, but says a new section of city code would have to be written first.

Sheree Kerner owns Nawlins Cab. She said Uber could change the face of the cab industry and is considering getting out of the business altogether.

'I'm developing an exit strategy right now, which is difficult to just shut a big ship down, but it doesn't look very promising,' said Kerner.

Those like Kerner believe Uber could take their big tippers and their profits, just two years after the taxi industry underwent expensive reforms.

But those like Soileau believe competition is a good thing.

Uber New Orleans General Manager Tom Hayes believes the council didn't go far enough in easing restrictions, because New Orleans still has the highest mandated minimum fee in the country for luxury for-hire sedans, at $15.

The city also requires for-hire luxury companies to own at least two limousines, which restricts entrepreneurs who want to enter the market independently, said Hayes.

No word yet on when Uber will be up and running in New Orleans, but Hayes said the company is working to have vehicles on the streets as soon as possible.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/2014/09/09/14798234/