Come to historic downtown St. Charles and you’ll likely have to walk, bike, drive or take a taxi cab.
Unlike many other areas, the city does not receive service from app-based transportation companies like Uber or Lyft.
“I guess Uber just doesn’t want to check a map every time they get a call from St. Charles,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.
Ehlmann said Tuesday the problem originates from different jurisdictions in the county that have different rules.
Basically, he said, it makes it really difficult for Lyft or Uber drivers to keep up with what’s allowed where, so they just don’t come to St. Charles County or city.
And the result?
Ehlmann said it’s hard to quantify, but he believes the region is at an economic disadvantage to other cities when trying to attract new business.
“We have to say at the endo the conversation, by the way, we don’t have Uber. And they’re like, oh, everyone in the world has Uber,” he explained.
But now there’s hope for supporters of expanding these services.
A bill passed the Missouri Senate on Tuesday that would create statewide regulations for Uber and Lyft. If it becomes law, it would require them to pay a licensing fee and follow a non-discrimination policy among other requirements.
The companies have indicated that they would expand in Missouri if the bill is enacted.
Ehlmann said that is encouraging news for the St. Charles area.
He said it’s high time the market decides which service customers prefer.
“It won’t be some group of individuals on a commission who decide which taxi company gets to play, which is how it is now,” he said.
As for customers, the idea is getting mixed reviews.
Five on Your Side talked with potential users on historic Main Street. Some seemed overjoyed at finally being able to use User, but others didn’t think it would be a huge hit.
“Main Street is really only busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Somebody’s not going to get an Uber on a Tuesday night versus if they’re down in St. Louis,” said Zach Craig of St. Charles.
Blake Hamor of St. Charles said, “I feel like with Main Street and the popular bars and restaurants, it would be a good thing to have so we can lower our drinking and driving problems.”
Ehlmann echoed those safety sentiments.
He said having Uber or Lyft would be a great resource for people trying to get home from the wineries in parts of rural St. Charles County.
Lawmakers in Jefferson City have until the end of May to act on the legislation in question.
If they do not again, St. Charles County would take matters into its own hands.
Ehlmann said they’re prepared to amend the county charter with a ballot initiative in August. He said voters would essentially get to decide if they want to pave the way for Uber or Lyft service.