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The right call

The City Council made the right call in giving initial approval for ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. Now councilors should take care not to torpedo the whole idea by insisting on stricter regulation than Medford requires.

The vehicle-for-hire services compete with taxi companies, but on a different business model. Private vehicle owners sign up to use their own cars to transport customers who hail rides and pay using a smartphone app. Customers generally can get picked up in a matter of minutes, and pay lower fares than with a traditional cab company.

That’s not good news for taxi companies, but companies in Portland have entered into partnerships with Uber, giving customers the option to hail a traditional cab with the Uber app if they prefer. And some Portland taxi companies started offering a smartphone app of their own. That sounds like healthy competition.

The goal should be to provide the best transportation choices possible, and increasingly, travelers expect to find Uber and Lyft wherever they go. As it stands now, the vehicle-for-hire companies can take passengers to Ashland from Medford or the airport, but cannot initiate rides in Ashland.

The companies want Ashland to adopt the same rules as Medford for simplicity, but some councilors want a 10-year background check for drivers rather than seven, mandatory vehicle inspections and a limit on the hours drivers can work.

Uber and Lyft could help relieve parking issues downtown and offer bar patrons safe rides home. The city should help make that happen.