MINNEAPOLIS - The Minneapolis City Council gave the green light Friday to a pair of well-known transportation network companies, part of an ordinance package that updates transportation policies and options in the city.

The council voted 12- to-1 to give both Uber and Lyft legal authority to operate their ride sharing services within city limits. The smart phone-based services match people who need rides with community car owners who provide them.

City Councilman Blong Vang cast the only dissenting vote, saying he was concerned about discrimination and lack of handicap access.

"Once again, our city is on the front line in the move for progress, "said Council Member Jacob Frey, the author of the City's transportation network companies ordinance. "Our goal when we began drafting this ordinance many months ago was to be the first city to do this properly -- one, by ensuring safety, and two, by allowing an alternative transportation model to operate and thrive."

The main provisions of the transportation network company ordinances are:

  • That transportation network companies will be the license holder for all activity associated with their license application.
  • That drivers will not be required to obtain an individual transportation network company driver's license or vehicle license. The drivers and vehicles will be inspected and checked and, upon approval, will be endorsed.
  • That the City license inspection staff will perform inspections and audits to ensure that the transportation network company services are adhering to City requirements.

Licensing fees would be collected from the transportation network companies to cover the costs of regulation, such as hiring and training additional licensing inspectors. Vehicles would be inspected the same way as they are for taxi companies.

Drivers would be subject to the same background check requirements whether they drive for transportation network companies or taxi companies. A new surcharge will be paid by transportation network companies and taxi companies that will provide incentives to encourage carriers to be wheelchair and handicap accessible.

"Today's vote recognizes that regulations can be modernized to allow innovative industries to thrive while maintaining the highest level of public safety.," read a statement released by Lyft. "By creating a common-sense regulatory framework that secures a future for ridesharing in the city, Minneapolis has stepped up as leader in welcoming community-powered transportation options and forging a path for other municipalities to follow.

The vote also updates the city's taxi ordinance, which have been in place for nearly 30 years. Among the changes is that taxi cabs can be up to ten years old. Previously they were required to be five years old or newer. Taxi cab owners were also concerned that drivers of ride sharing cars would be unregulated: the new ordinance addresses some of those concerns.

"Our ordinances for taxi companies have been in place since the early 1980s," said Council Member Abdi Warsame, who authored the major changes to the City's taxi ordinances. "We needed to update these to keep pace with the times. These changes also make sure that many of our taxi company requirements will also be required of the transportation network companies as well, making it a fairer playing field."