GONZALES — The Ascension Parish Council is considering whether to open the roads in the parish to app-based ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
The council will consider an ordinance at 6 p.m. Thursday in Gonzales that would clear the way for the services, including by requiring permits for the companies, company registries of their drivers and background checks and insurance on the drivers.
“This ride sharing ordinance will be great for Ascension Parish. It not only provides residents with a cost-effective mode of transportation, but it also opens up the possibility of new jobs for interested drivers,” Parish President Kenny Matassa said in a statement Wednesday.
The ordinance is set for introduction Thursday, the first of a two-step process to adopt an ordinance in the parish. If the council agrees to introduce it, a public hearing and final vote could happen next month.
The ride services allow users to hail drivers through cellphone apps. The drivers use their own cars for taxi services. Riders are able to pay for the ride with a credit or debit card through the cellphone app.
These services, in particular Uber, have run into opposition and court fights from traditional taxi services. Uber and Lyft also have drawn fines from regulators in a few states.
Uber, widely seen as the U.S. leader in the ride-sharing business with a market valuation The Wall Street Journal put at $62.5 billion, is operating in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans and is available in a limited fashion in Ascension Parish.
According to Uber officials, if the proposed ordinance passes, Ascension would be the first suburban Baton Rouge parish to adopt a regulatory framework for ride-sharing, opening up service and job opportunities.
“We look forward to expanding safe, reliable transportation options and flexible work opportunities throughout the Ascension Parish community,” Thomas Hayes, general manager of Uber Louisiana, said in a statement.
“If passed into law, Ascension Parish would join their neighbors in East Baton Rouge, other Louisiana communities like New Orleans and Lafayette, and 30 states across the country that have welcomed Uber with sensible, modern ride-sharing laws.”
Uber officials have been speaking with Ascension officials for several weeks about opening up access for ride-sharing businesses.
Lyft, often seen as Uber’s chief U.S. rival and valued at $5.5 billion, is only operating in New Orleans at this time, a company spokeswoman said.
Mary Caroline Pruitt, Lyft spokeswoman, said the fast-growing company doesn’t have any immediate plans to move into the Baton Rouge area.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.