Uber isn’t currently operating in Oak Harbor, but that should change soon.
Nick Greven has been driving for the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft in Oak Harbor for more than three years. He knows of three other full-time drivers in the area as well as some part-timers.
He was surprised last week when his Uber app stopped working within Oak Harbor and discovered that it was because of new city regulations that went into effect at the beginning of the year.
“A lot of people rely on the service,” he said.
Blaine Oborn, city administrator, explained that a state law allowed municipalities to regulate transportation network carriers, which are companies that use an online-enabled platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal, non-commercial vehicles.
The city adopted new rules in which the companies have to pay a $600 fee and are obligated to do some background checking on drivers, Oborn said. He said the city has long been regulating taxi services.
Lyft is in the process of paying the fee and completing the registration requirements, he said, but the city didn’t hear from Uber.
Uber sent a statement to the Whidbey News-Times Thursday that says the company ended operations in Oak Harbor in September and the company hopes to work with the city to satisfy the permit requirements and resume operations soon.
Greven said Washington is one of the few states that doesn’t have a statewide framework for regulating rideshare, which means the companies and drivers have to navigate a plethora of local regulations.
Legislators considered statewide legislation this year, but it didn’t pass.