- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - Boston convention center officials are urging Massachusetts lawmakers to drop from a bill regulating ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft a provision that would bar drivers from picking up passengers at the venue for the next five years.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which operates the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District, said the ban - intended to protect taxi drivers who have been hurt by competition from ride-hailing services - could impair the city’s ability to attract and keep large conventions that generate economic activity.

James Folk, the authority’s transportation director, said convention-goers by the thousands were accustomed to using Uber and Lyft to get to hotels or restaurants.

“We’re trying to get as many people here for economic stimulus and everything else, and if we lose that, we’re going to lose customers,” Folk told The Boston Globe.

Ride-hailing services would also be barred from picking up fares at Logan International Airport under the bill approved by the House last month. A Senate panel is now reviewing the measure.

Even if the ride-hailing companies were allowed to operate at the convention center, there would still be plenty of business to go around for taxi operators, Folk argued.

Supporters of the proposed 5-year ban said cabbies have been badly hurt by competition from the largely unregulated companies, and point out that construction of the convention facility was partly financed by the taxi industry.

“When we were building the convention center, taxi medallions were issued to help with the financing,” Rep. Michael Moran, a Boston Democrat, told the Boston Herald. “It seems only fair, since they helped finance the building, that seems like an obvious place where there should be some exclusivity given to the medallion owners.”

The ride-hailing legislation also includes several other provisions, including background checks for drivers and new insurance requirements.

Uber and Lyft oppose several elements of the bill, including the temporary bans at the convention center and airport.

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Information from: Boston Herald, https://www.bostonherald.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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