Across the country ridesharing companies are changing the way people think about transportation. Using technology to match riders with drivers, these companies are an innovative way for people to get from place to place while creating thousands of new jobs.  Uber and Lyft – two of a number of companies excited to operate in Missouri – alone predict 10,000 new Missouri jobs if they are allowed to operate freely in our state. Without a statewide framework, however, ridesharing companies are subject to municipal regulations that often prevent drivers from crossing city or county lines – such as from St. Charles County to St. Louis County – which has handcuffed these companies from operating at full capacity in Missouri.

I want to open the door for private businesses to succeed, and create more jobs. This is why I introduced legislation enacting provisions relating to Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), and am committed to seeing a statewide framework for ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate throughout Missouri.

When free to operate across multiple jurisdictions, these companies are improving access to transportation options. I witnessed this firsthand when my family and I attended last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. With thousands of visitors descending upon Cleveland, we utilized Uber drivers over a dozen times to get us safely where we needed to go. Many of these drivers were only working the few days of the convention to earn some extra money. They were able to help the city meet the heavy demand for transporting all the out-of-town guests. The same thing occurred a couple months ago in Jefferson City for the governor’s inauguration. On that day, Uber safely conducted more than 1,000 rides in Jefferson City.

Passage of this framework puts high standards in place to ensure each driver is qualified and cleared to be on the companies’ digital network for you to hire as your driver. Additionally, the technology of ridesharing companies allows for riders to have access to a wealth of information about their driver before they hire them, including a rating system of drivers by their past passengers. Family members can also use real-time GPS tracking to know where their loved ones are at all times. In addition to the economic impact, ridesharing companies are adding a new level of safety when hiring a driver.

An additional benefit of allowing TNC’s to operate is that all drivers are safer on the road.  Studies continue to show that by allowing Uber and Lyft to operate freely, there is a 51 percent drop in DUI arrests and a drop in alcohol-related accidents. An especially enlightening, though tragic, “experiment” occurred in Austin, Texas. The year Uber and Lyft entered the market, drunk driving arrests decreased by 5 percent, and the next year DUI arrest decreased by an additional 12 percent. However, in May 2016 when Uber and Lyft left Austin because of new burdensome regulations the city council put into place, drunk driving arrests were up 7.5 percent in the following months. Taking action to provide new options like Uber and Lyft for Missourians to travel responsibly demonstrates the General Assembly’s commitment to public safety.

TNC services are in great demand by the public. TNCs also have the ability to almost instantly create thousands of new jobs in Missouri. There are few economic development tools that can match that. It is time for Missouri to enter the 21st Century and allow this innovative industry to thrive in our state.

I look forward to Missouri becoming the 40th state to embrace the economic and safety benefits ridesharing companies provide.

 Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis

District 2