Jefferson Parish officials and the popular ride-hailing service Uber were expected to fight it out in court on Thursday. Instead, they returned to the negotiating table to work on a deal that would allow Uber to operate in Jefferson legally.
It’s too early to say what type of conditions Uber may be asked to accept, but Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee said she was “optimistic” that Uber and similar services would soon be able to pick up riders in unincorporated Jefferson Parish in the same way they already can in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and St. Tammany Parish.
“We have never been anti-Uber,” Foshee said. “What we want to do is make sure we have a set of rules that creates a level playing field with the rest of the commercial driving industry.”
Over the past two months, Foshee’s office has filed civil lawsuits accusing Uber and some of its drivers of violating parish ordinances requiring commercial drivers to have certificates of public necessity and convenience, as well as state laws requiring specialized licenses and plates for commercial drivers.
The parish has asked for fines and temporary restraining orders to keep Uber from operating in Jefferson until the cases are resolved.
Multiple requests for restraining orders were denied last month, but arguments were scheduled Thursday in Metairie’s 1st Parish Court for whether a preliminary injunction should be issued until all the litigation is resolved.
All parties agreed to postpone those arguments until at least Jan. 26 to see whether Jefferson Parish can come up with rules for ride-sharing services.
Uber said such services are not explicitly regulated by the parish’s existing ordinances.
“This decision will allow us to keep working with Jefferson Parish to create fair, modernized regulations that embrace ride-sharing,” Tom Hayes, general manager for Uber in Louisiana, said in a written statement. “In the meantime, Jefferson Parish riders will continue to have access to safe, reliable transportation” and drivers “will continue to have flexible earning opportunities through the Uber platform.”
Foshee said whatever compromise might eventually be worked out with the company may require a change in the parish ordinances governing commercial vehicles, which would need approval from the Parish Council.
This spring, the council considered an ordinance that would have permitted Uber and similar companies to offer rides to users of their mobile apps in Jefferson’s unincorporated areas, but the measure was defeated, at least in part because of opposition from the local taxi industry.
Uber nonetheless expanded into Jefferson in late June, saying the parish had no law forbidding it to operate. The taxi industry objected and pressured the parish to shut down the ride-hailing service, prompting Foshee’s office to file its various legal challenges.