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A progressive approach is taken on taxi laws as Uber comes to Grand Rapids

Uber came to Grand Rapids three weeks ago, offering a free ride promotion for the first two weeks. The free ride promotion resulted in a strong start for the ride-sharing mobile app service. Though passengers have had to start paying for rides, demand isn't expected to decrease. Riders don't appear to be concerned about about alleged safety concerns that some critics have been expressing.

Uber drivers are subjected to a criminal background check when they apply online. Drivers' cars must be 10-years-old or less and are required to seat at least four passengers. All Uber cars are visually inspected. Uber plans to partner with Grand Rapids maintenance shops to ensure vehicle inspections are performed. The service strives to ensure quality standards by allowing for passengers to rate their Uber experience.

Taxi companies and insurance agencies say Uber is competing unfairly because they don't have to pay licensing fees and are under-regulated. Propertly Casualty Insurers Association of America expressed safety concerns about Uber, saying taxi services are much safer than ride-sharing.

“We are not currently interested in licensing and regulating Uber drivers,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in a statement regarding safety, licensing and regulation issues.

Grand Rapids will compare Uber experiences with other Michigan cities that have Uber services in order to decide whether Grand Rapids taxi service regulations should be revised, rather than pushing regulations on Uber drivers. The city expressed that taxi regulations are becoming outdated and it embraces Uber's new ride-sharing approach.

Grand Rapids Uber manager Mike White said “I can speak confidently that there is not an insurance gap for drivers or riders using our platform. Any time a rider is taking a ride that is coordinated through the Uber system, they are covered by a $1 million commercial liability insurance, which is three times the requirement, by the way, for Grand Rapids taxis, which is $300,000. That insurance does meet the requirements of Michigan’s Personal Injury Protection program, under the Michigan no fault coverage insurance.”

The city says Uber ride-sharing is safe, with background checks on drivers and in meeting Grand Rapids' insurance requirements.

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