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EDITOR, Daily News:
In the Ketchikan Daily News’ Opinion page of March 7, Megan McCardle writes about the entrepreneurship of Uber and Lyft. Great perhaps for a city of 710,231 inhabitants, however, Alaska’s entire population in 2018 was just that — 710,231 people covering 665,384 square miles.
In 2017, Alaska legislators finally won out against small transportation companies like taxis, shuttles and sightseeing tour companies and approved the Let’s Ride Alaska Act, or the Uber/Lyft bill for transportation network drivers. Ketchikan must graciously accept that the digital age of booking transportation has arrived from the Lower 48.
Municipal clerks from the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Gateway Borough process tour operators and drivers who fill out an Application for Public Vehicle Certificate and issue permits if conducting sightseeing tours within the city and borough. Regardless of whether McCardle’s article implies the long-term investment in these two companies will survive or not, it does set precedent for similar business models to follow.
Reputable tour operators are moving toward purchasing sedans and vans for sightseeing excursions: Pick up guests around city docks and head out for a two-hour-plus city, wildlife totem tour. The driver/tour guide moves about the island in an unmarked vehicle and blends into otherwise restricted streets/neighborhoods; providing door-to-door service, i.e., loading zones in rural areas limited in space. It’s what every operator wished they could offer, but can’t because of the restrictions placed on them, especially when the vehicle is branded with company logo.
The Borough Assembly is reviewing its Tourism Management Program on Monday, and the City Clerk’s office is preparing to update the application paperwork. The whole purpose of the Application for Public Vehicle Certificate and Permit — to be held accountable for Alaska business license, commercial insurance with $300,000 rider (mandated by cruise ship companies), vehicle inspection and registration papers. Drivers submit information of drivers’ license and emergency certification: First aid and CPR. The borough’s Finance Department processes the legitimacy of the company and collects sales tax.
The 2017 legislation clearly references that drivers must register with local municipalities and follow guidelines if established. The only mechanism that can trace to negligent at time of accident is the permit and from there, who is partially liable for not doing their due diligence in keeping unsafe vehicles and drivers off Ketchikan/borough land? Summer season brings in visitors on cruise ships, thus the mandate to carry adequate insurance.
In previous reports and recommendations, I speak of the 98 percent who comply with the rules set by the Assembly and City Council and it is the two percent who constantly push the outer limits of civility and think they can abuse the system. As applications are being updated for 2019 season, I urge they include the category of unmarked vehicles driven by tour operators and transportation network drivers, such as Uber or Lyft drivers.