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Hey, Duluth: Your Uber could be arriving as soon as March

The city council will consider rules next month.

Duluthians, your ride may soon be accepted.

There's a draft ordinance that's expected to go before the Duluth City Council next month that would allow transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft to operate in the city.

Currently, there aren't any rules in place to regulate these companies, but the proposal from city councilor Noah Hobbs would change that. And if all goes according to plan, TNCs could be operating in Duluth as soon as early as this spring, Hobbs told GoMN Wednesday.

It's something many in Duluth have been waiting for.

Uber already serves the Twin Cities and Fargo-Moorhead, and is planning to launch service in Rochester in the near future. And as Uber looks to expand to more mid-sized cities, this proposal is a proactive step to make sure Duluth has regulations in place before rideshare services start operating in the city, WDIO reported earlier this month.

Hobbs' draft ordinance includes rules for car safety inspections, background checks for drivers, insurance requirements and licensing fees (read the full proposal here). It's similar to the rules taxi drivers have to follow, WDIO notes.

When other cities were working on rules for rideshare companies, people have been concerned about riders' safety and how it could affect taxi companies. And there are similar concerns in Duluth, with the Duluth News Tribune reporting taxi companies are a little apprehensive about Uber, noting they'll be sharing some of the same customers. Dean Hansen, who owns Gold Door Taxi Co., told the paper that he's "all for Uber, if there's a level playing field."

There will be a public information meeting with stakeholders in mid-January, followed by a Committee of the Whole meeting the following week. The draft ordinance is expected to go before the city council for a vote in late January or early February, Hobbs told GoMN.

Hobbs expects the ordinance to pass, with some debate. (Although "nothing to the extent" of what happened when the city council was working on a policy for short-term rentals like Airbnb, he told GoMN.) If it passes, people could start requesting rides by early March, Hobbs said.

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