House weighs Uber-for-feds bill

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Federal employees would be allowed to use ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft and even bikeshare for reimbursable work-related travel, if a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law.

Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Seth Moulton, D-Mass.,introduced the Government Travel Modernization Act, which would open up ridesharing as an alternative to conventional taxis and employer-reimbursed mileage. 

The bill, which its authors say would create more options and save taxpayer dollars, was referred to the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday.

“The federal government is notoriously behind-the-times with antiquated policies that stifle innovation and 21st Century competition. The result is a government that rewards outdated technology and pays more than it should for basic services,” Rep. Will Hurd, wrote in a press release. “This bill finally allows federal employees to catch up with the private sector and moves the needle toward a more innovative and responsive government.”

The legislation is an example of how technology could improve governance according to Moulton.

“This bipartisan bill will change that for the thousands of federal employees both in Washington and in Massachusetts. This bill seeks to bring innovation into how government functions by utilizing the new technology that is available to us,” Rep. Seth Moulton wrote in the release.

The Consumer Technology Association sees the legislation as a way to support innovation, create jobs and reduce traffic.

“By allowing federal employees to use alternative transportation options such as Uber and Lyft for official, reimbursable travel, the Government Travel Modernization Act will give federal employees the choices they deserve – and save taxpayers money,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA wrote in a separate press release. 

“The federal government should not be in the business of favoring one transportation method over another. Federal workers should have the ability to choose the most cost-effective and convenient mode of transportation wherever they are traveling.”

Fostering competition between transportation “is one of those easy solutions” to reduce the cost of each option, VP of Government Affairs at CTA Tiffany Moore said.

Linking email receipts directly to expense accounts creates more accountability for federal employees a spokesperson for Lyft wrote in an email to FedScoop.

“Ridesharing services like Lyft are more affordable than black car or taxi services, which  government employees have historically used for business travel,” the Lyft spokesperson wrote.

The federal example could also lead to local governments adopting the practice.

“This is an acknowledgement that the sharing economy — and specifically ridesharing — is an important component of the broader transportation ecosystem. This could also serve as a catalyst for other state and local officials to provide their employees with the same type safer, more affordable business travel options,” Lyft’s spokesperson wrote.

There is no companion legislation currently being heard in the Senate, “but we have had some interest” from the other chamber, Shana Teehan, spokesperson for Rep. Will Hurd wrote in an email.

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Congress, Government IT News, House of Representatives, House Oversight and Reform Committee, Lyft, ridesharing, Uber
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