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Uber, Lyft Drivers Attend Newark City Council Meeting On Proposed Fees

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The Newark City Council is heard testimony Wednesday about a proposal that would require Uber and Lyft drivers to pay an annual fee to serve Newark Airport and Newark Penn Station.

The city wants the drivers to pay a fee of around $1,000 a year if they want to pick up passengers at the city's busiest hubs. That's on top of a $500 fee that they already pay to drive in the city.

"Charging $1,500 per year for specific pickups for specific locations would essentially make it so they would not be able to afford to operate," Ana Mahoney, General Manager Uber New Jersey said.

The bill comes after a contested back and forth by the city, first banning the drivers from the airport and rail station all together, then lifting the ban and then ordering it once again, having drivers ticketed and towed if caught violating the ordinance.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka argued that Uber and Lyft should be subjected to the same regulations and fees as taxi drivers and that they need to undergo background checks.

"Taxis and auto cabs — they have to have a particular license, commercial license. They have to be investigated, finger-printed and more importantly, they have to have medallions and they have to pay the city," Baraka said back in February.

Uber officials and drivers are planning to protest, saying the proposal is simply a money making scheme and a way to placate taxi drivers who they say support Baraka politically.

Bryan Clark has been driving an Uber around Newark for the past year. Clark told CBS2's Ali Bauman the city needs to understand that drivers like him are just trying to make a living.

"It's not just a name -- 'Uber' -- it's people...we're hard working people," Clark said."...Uber is a job just like these other jobs and so you can't just say you're gonna put people out of work or make them pay to work it makes no sense."

Yellow taxi drivers waiting in the Penn Station cab line told Bauman they support the proposal because there needs to be a level playing field for all drivers.

"It's fair because we have the license I mean all the process we have to do background check everything I think this is fair," Cal Merczat, a yellow cab driver, said.

They claim it will also keep Newark residents safe.

"They would have a medallion just like our drivers have a medallion, so the police knows that that car the person is driving, that car has been fingerprinted, background checked, and has the proper insurance to cover them God forbid something happens to them in that vehicle," Lionel Leach, Communication Workers of America said.

For Newark commuters, it's all about convenience.

"Honestly cab service here needs a lot of help so I welcome the Uber drivers -- it's the only way I'm able to get any transportation here when I actually need it," Melissa Moore, a commuter, said.

From Newark Airport an Uber ride to Manhattan can cost you up to $52, a yellow cab can cost up to $65.

Wednesday was the first reading. The City Council will be back for a final vote. A public hearing is expected for April 20.

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