Just days after the City Council passed an ordinance designed to regulate transportation networks, Uber has shut down its service in Galveston.

Monday evening, people in Galveston who tried to use the phone app to order a ride received a message that Uber is no longer available in Galveston

“Due to new regulations passed by Galveston City Council, Uber is no longer available in the city,” the message says. “We hope to resume operations in Galveston under modern ridesharing regulations in the future.”

The council passed those regulations on Thursday.

The rules require that ride-hailing companies apply for operators’ licenses from the city, and require the company’s drivers to apply for chauffeurs’ licenses.

As part of the licensing procedure, drivers have to go through a background check that includes a federal fingerprint analysis.

Uber has objected to cities, including Austin and Houston, who require fingerprint checks from its drivers. In other cities, the company claims that its business model does not allow for the time required to conduct such background checks.

“These new regulations will make it difficult for partners to earn extra money on a flexible schedule and create barriers to entry instead of improving access to reliable transportation options such as ridesharing,” Sharraz Maredia, the general manager of Uber Houston said in an message to drivers sent on Monday evening.

City officials say the fingerprint check can take up to two weeks to complete.

Uber and other ride-hailing companies have never been considered strictly legal in Galveston. Before Thursday, drivers were expected to follow the same rules as taxis, including driving clearly marked vehicles and having operating meters.

Drivers caught operating as part of a ride-hailing service were ticketed for operating without a license, among other violations.

Still, the company claimed that it gave “tens of thousands” of rides in Galveston last year.

The city issued 103 violations to between 35 and 40 drivers, according to city spokesman Michael Gray. Some of the drivers were ticketed for multiple violations.

The city council passed the new rules Thursday, ostensibly to allow ride-hailing companies to operate under the same requirements as taxi cabs. Local cab companies had asked for rules that require the same inspections and background checks that their industry is required to follow.

Galveston’s rules go into effect March 1.

According to Quorum Report, an Austin-based political newsletter, Uber also shut down its operations in Midland.

Midland had recently passed rules that required drivers to be permitted by the city. Those rules went in effect on Monday.

Maredia told Quorum Report that the company had about 1,000 drivers in Galveston and Midland combined, and that the company was shifting its strategy to “focus on markets that acknowledge the benefits of ridesharing.”

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.


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(29) comments

Don Ciaccio

GPD doesn't have anything better to do than to issue 103 tickets to UBER drivers on a Mardi Gras weekend? This city never surprises me with its insanity.

D Seigel

Great job. Now we will have more drunks on the road. Thanks

Don Ciaccio

It turns out the tickets were issued by civilian taxi enforcement officers, not GPD officers. I'm glad to find that out.

Brian Cann

Don, what exactly is the civilian taxi enforcement? Who is in charge? Who are the officers? How and by whom are they vetted? Is it a paid position? How is fraud, bribery, and general corruption kept in check? Are there any other civilian enforcement agency's in Galveston? I find this fascinating and a bit worrisome that such an entity exists.

To the main point of the article. Cab companies are losing money to Uber and don't like it. The owners made a stink and probably talked about campaign donations to challengers of the sitting council members in the next election. This caused the council to "do something to level the playing field" because uber drivers don't have to jump through the same financial and regulatory hoops that the cab companies do. So, instead of reducing the hoops that cabs companies have to jump through, the council decided to increase the hoops for all. How "free market" of them! Gotta keep the fees, fines, and taxes flowing; gotta feed the beast. Nanny states don't run on unicorn farts, kickbacks and payoffs are a cash only business. Please, don't tell me it's about safety. Like fingerprinting or a clearly marked cab is going to stop bad things from happening!

johnferguson Staff
John Wayne Ferguson

I just clarified with the city who was issuing tickets. The city's two Taxi and Wrecker Inspectors were were worked a special shift that was geared around Mardi Gras. Those two people, who are city employees but not police officers, handed out all the violations.

They identified Uber drivers in a couple different ways. Some were spotted because they had Uber stickers on their windshields, others were straight-up asked by the inspectors if they were TNC drivers.

There were no extra officers or civilian volunteers sent out to do this ticketing, according to the city.

Mark Stevens

Classic case of too much government interfering with free enterprise and bringing about unintended, negative consequences. . Mr. Siegel's comment is right on point. Uber provided a valuable service, especially at an alcohol-sodden event like Mardi Gras.
Memo to City Council: MYOB.

Mark W. Stevens

Jim Casey

Mr. Stevens, regulating taxis is the city council's business. No other entity has the legal power to do so.

I thought you were better informed than that.

As for Uber, they can take their marbles and go home. They can perform a few other anatomically impossible acts that would be offensive if I went into further detail.

Don Schlessinger

There's no financial reason Uber can't work in Galveston. Traditional taxi services understand that. Apparently Uber doesn't work that way. All they have to do is find the right place on the council to start.

Doyle Beard

Uber go by the rules and all will be OK. drivers checks are not unfair. WHY DONT THEY WANT TO FOLLOW RULES.

Galveston City Manager

The City has not banned Uber. City Council passed an ordinance that requires Uber and their drivers to follow the same procedures to register as taxi companies and their drivers. Uber's biggest operations are in Houston and Austin - the ordinance passed in the City of Galveston mirrors the exact same provisions as these major cities. We hope that Uber will reconsider their decision on this matter.

Galveston City Manager

Kala McCain
City of Galveston
Public Information Officer

Carol Dean

I have had nothing but good experiences from UBER.

Jim Forsythe

Here are some of the things to think about if Uber (or other’s} returns to this area.
Are the’s things true for us.

Because it doesn't fingerprint drivers, the background checks are "completely worthless," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The company repeats this misleading statement, giving consumers a false sense of security when deciding whether to get into a stranger's car."
That's increasingly raising concerns among women, especially given the recent cases involving sexual harassment and assault, and what some see as an inadequate response from Uber.

Live scan:
Do we us this tool for checking background?

Uber needs drivers, but not all drivers who sign up for Uber have cars. More importantly, some of these drivers don’t have good credit, either. To solve this dilemma, Uber launched a program to connect drivers with subprime lenders.

Surge pricing:
Some people have been charged over $200 for a 20 min. ride under surge pricing by Uber.

What insurance do they have? Taxi or Uber.

The company{Uber} has been routinely criticized for the ambiguity of its insurance situation, including what commercial liability coverage it provides drivers while they are transporting passengers and how that dovetails with a driver’s own personal automotive coverage for the rest of their driving time. Many individual auto insurance policies expressly working as a transportation networker company driver or at the very least will deny coverage for incidents occurring during such activity. For that reason, few drivers even tell their insurance carrier about their work for Uber.

Are we at risk if something happens?

Margarita Sims

I think it is completely fair that Uber be required to do the same inspections and background checks that taxis are required to do.

Rusty Schroeder

I find it funny 103 tickets were issued in a weekend, 1st of Mardi Gras, and how many were issued in the months before? City Council passed that ordinance and enforced old codes on Thursday, how many tickets were before last weekend? This smells, Civilian Taxi Enforcement Officers? What exactly is their power, a pen and paper?

Doyle Beard

How many more rides were given on this weekend than normal. Again we are supposed to be a nation of law and order. Why cant everyone abide by it.
As far a good experience with uber does that mean they dont need to follow rules?

Rusty Schroeder

Doyle my point is not about abiding by the law, I think Uber should follow the same rules as any taxi business. That being said, I think City Council was pushed by local taxi companies to enforce an existing law on this weekend. Thus they acted with a civilian ticket squad a day after the ordinance? I know there is a lot of sand on the Island, no need to bury your head in it though. This was nothing but a witchhunt , this is the same Galveston that's PD beat down a local at a wedding party. LOL, and they want to be a tourist destination, oh my. Tillman is adding 300 rooms to his Lake Charles Nugget, good luck Galveston. Will the Seawall restrooms come in 2 or 3 $million over budget, come on Mr. Smart, Maxwell that is. It must be nice to have a Public Information Officer to relay your mistakes in judgment, you were lucky your mom worked for Joe Max.[beam]

Doyle Beard

My point is obey the law and the ticket squad will not do this. I think its kinda like the DPS drive on certain holidays to put most of the troopers on duty to look out for drunken drivers.
Hell I can remember when there were drivers license stops just checking people to see if they were licensed.
Obey the law and things work out for you. I am a stickler for rules.

Rusty Schroeder

Doyle I hate to tell you this, rules are made to be broken, like our US Constitution has been over the last few years. I think this was a pathetic money grab to make the Taxi Owners happy. Now that Uber said bye, rates can increase for tourists, will be great for the Yelp users crushing the city.

Doyle Beard

What a pathetic defense.

Doyle Beard

So if one gets a ticket just tell the judge " your honor rules are made to be broken." also I bet you and mr Stevens would just a he said MYOB to the city if you had a business and others were offering the same service under no rules while your are abiding by them. In the end there is no excuse for Uber to try and circumvent the law period.

Rusty Schroeder

Happens everyday in Galveston , wake up Doyle.

preston h

I think that both sides are missing the point that any drivers from the Houston area are already fingerprint background checked that have a TNC license through the City of Houston will also have their vehicle safety inspected and has commercial insurance , that being said I think this takes care of all the issues of safety and therefore uber is right in the fact that paying extra for the ability to operate in Galveston is like paying twice for the same thing so get over yourselves GALVESTON YOU ARE PART OF THE HOUSTON AREA AND YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.

Doyle Beard

were they all from houston. Also you cant come into another territory and operate just because you want to with out somekind of approval. That is absurd.

Doyle Beard

Thats not what Uber said. If they had all the credentials then it is their fault for not trying to work something instead of taking things in their own hands. They need to obey rules and get over themselves . no where in their statements did they say what you preston are saying. Actually I believe many were vilolating the laws of the city.
ordinances are in place and they need to comply. Case closed.

preston h

I think if you read the Houston ordinance and compare to the Galveston rules you will see that if a driver is qualified to drive in Houston they are just as safe to pick up people in Galveston so the only reason I can see is that the council is protecting the cab industry and trying to make money off uber drivers at the same time.I also think uber should sue the city to get back ALL the money from tickets given to uber drivers.

Doyle Beard

No one is arguing they are not safe. Galveston has an ordinance so you need to understand that side. I bet the ones outside houston cant go drive in houston without some kind of approval. My argument is they need to obey City rules and if people are against obeying rules then that is their problem. Pay the piper then.

preston h

There are many towns in the greater Houston area that are larger than Galveston and they have no problem with Uber.I also looked up the Taxi rates for Houston compared to Galveston and they are quite higher i think the Galveston taxi rates need to come down.SO look up some facts and get back to me its obvious you are probably a Taxi driver at this point.

Doyle Beard

I have never been in a taxi must less a driver.I believe you are making all your assumptions like you did about me. Guess what you were 100% wrong on me.
Just remember are the other towns uber is in other than Austin and houston have rules. Look that up .
I am for all obeying city ordinances and people who dont then that is their problem.

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