Uber stops free rides, pauses operations in Anchorage

Uber is pausing operations in Anchorage and stopped offering free rides on Friday afternoon. But negotiations with the city are not over.

The Uber Pacific Northwest Operations Manager Bryce Bennett announced the decision in a blog post. He cited slow negotiations with the municipality about new regulations that would allow Uber drivers to charge for their services. “The city has dragged its feet and failed to provide a clear end-date for negotiations,” Bennett wrote.

Uber created an online petition to show public support for the service. More than 1,000 people signed within the first four hours of its creation.

Deputy municipal attorney Dee Ennis, who is working on the Uber case, says the muni and the company came to an impasse on issues of public safety. The city wanted Uber drivers to undergo fingerprinting, drug testing, and medical exams like other taxi drivers. Ennis says now it’s up to the Assembly to decide if they are willing to compromise on the issues.

“If the policy makers in the Assembly decide these things are important then we may never get to an MOU [memorandum of understanding]. If the city says, ‘Well if the consumer is aware that Uber doesn’t provide certain features, that it’s a consumer choice’ then we would proceed to an MOU.”

Assembly members will hear from the administration and from Uber during a March 18 public safety committee meeting.