El Paso

Council gives Uber deadline to provide alternatives for disabled El Pasoans

EL PASO, Texas - Uber has until March 24 to show the city of El Paso it is complying with the city's Transportation for Hire ordinance.

Members of the disabled community have filed complaints against the ride-sharing service, asking Uber to improve its services.

City Council representatives passed the Transportation for Hire ordinance in 2016. It requires transportation companies to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles upon request.

Council said if Uber does not comply, it could be fined. If the problems persist, the City could revoke its permit to operate in El Paso.

George Zavala, a disabled El Pasoan who spoke at Tuesday's city council meeting, is criticizing Uber for allegedly not providing timely service to the disabled community.

"We just don't understand why they don't want to comply. It is real simple. All they have to do is partner up with a third party," Zavala said.

Uber's website states: "We're using technology to make transportation more accessible and reliable for riders with ambulatory disabilities. We are piloting several models in various cities across the country to determine which wheelchair accessible vehicle options best meet the needs of our riders and driver-partners. These pilots range from making our technology available to wheelchair accessible taxis to providing wheelchair accessible options through partnerships with commercial providers (e.g. in New York, Houston, Chicago, London, Portland)."

Uber responded to ABC-7 in an email that stated: "Any individual who opens the Uber app in El Paso will see an in-app notification that displays a code. Users who input the code 'EPWAV' into the app will unlock a separate view call Access. Riders who input the code and use the 'Access' view in the Uber Application in El Paso will see a pop-up screen, which provides information about local wheelchair-accessible transportation service providers."

City representative Emma Acosta has said Uber is referring disabled El Pasoan's to Sun Metro's Lift service, but many are confusing it with Lyft, a new ride-sharing service similiar to Uber.

Acosta told ABC-7 Uber and Lyft need to let the City know which third party company it is going to contract to serve the disabled community.
Uber is cheap and economical. Uber is convenient and provides jobs," Zavala said, "But that does not negate their obligation to comply with the ordinance."

El Paso Police officials told city council members Lyft is providing transportation options for the disabled community.

The local discussion comes as Texas lawmakers filed two bills that would remove a city's authority to regulate ride-sharing companies and instead give that power to the state.

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