Washington city council approves ridesharing rules

By Reuters

Oct 28, 2014 11:44 PM EDT

Washington's city council approved a bill on Tuesday regulating app-based ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft in the U.S. capital, a council spokesman said.

The bill approved by District of Columbia lawmakers would allow passengers to summon rides using apps on their smartphones. Ridesharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have gained in popularity in dozens of U.S. cities in recent years.

The Washington bill requires background checks on drivers, yearly safety inspections, a ban on street hails and $1 million in liability insurance when a driver is en route to a rider and when the rider is being carried.

In an emailed statement, San Francisco-based Lyft welcomed the council's vote. "We're excited to see the local Lyft community grow and thrive for years to come," it said.

Ride sharing has faced strong opposition from Washington's taxi drivers, as has occurred in other cities where the service is offered. Cabbies argued that the app-based services had an unfair advantage because they did not have to follow the same rules as cabs.

Uber has typically been the focus of criticism because of its size and reach. Its services are available in more than 40 countries and the company has been valued at around $18 billion.

New Orleans cleared online car services last month, and Virginia came up with a temporary arrangement for them in August.

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