Ashland is now open to service from Uber and Lyft.
Whether those companies put Ashland on their maps is still uncertain, but city officials say Uber, at least, is promising.
Ashland City Council approved an ordinance for enactment Tuesday to allow transportation network companies to work within Ashland on a regimen much closer to that of Medford’s.
Assistant City Attorney Katrina Brown said she has not heard back from Lyft about whether it would come to Ashland after passing the ordinance.
City Administrator Kelly Madding said the Uber representative working with the city is transitioning to another job but said there is no indication that Uber won’t come to Ashland after the changes to the ordinance take effect.
“I don’t have a for-sure that they’re coming, but they were talking as if they were coming,” Madding said.
The City Council and staff have been wrestling with the companies since October 2017. The city wanted special requirements to better suit Ashland citizens, such as a required vehicle inspection and vehicles that can transport wheelchairs.
But the ride-sharing companies refused to negotiate. An Uber representative approached Ashland officials after Medford adopted its ordinance in 2017. The company wanted Ashland’s ordinance to more closely reflect Medford’s to allow for a regional consistency.
City officials pushed back at first, trying to negotiate for better practices, but the companies wouldn’t budge.
After more than a year, some councilors still aren’t swayed that settling is the right way to go, but the majority of the council agree that this is best for the community.
Councilor Rich Rosenthal voted against the ordinance, stating he still wasn’t comfortable working with the companies because of the way they’ve conducted business so far.
“I don’t feel comfortable sacrificing principles of safety and equity and access, and I’d really love to attempt to build a consensus with other cities in the region,” Rosenthal said.
Councilor Tonya Graham also did not approve the ordinance because she believes there is a chance that one of the companies might be willing to negotiate further with the city.
“I think we are at a moment in time where we have that negotiating power and won’t for long,” Graham said.
Councilor Stefani Seffinger said the service can help elderly and disabled residents have more mobility.
“I know a number of people this will make very happy because they believe this will extend their ability to do activities they wouldn’t be able to if this wasn’t available to them,” Seffinger said.
In other news, the City Council voted Jim Bachman and Michael Morris onto the Citizens’ Budget Committee. Bachman and Morris will serve four years, and the term ends June 30, 2023.Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.