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LA cab drivers protest rideshare apps, want enforced regulation

June 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of taxicab drivers took to Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday for a noisy protest over rideshare services that are promoted through smartphone applications and social media.

About 200 cabs drove in circles around City Hall honking their horns, demanding that the city take action against the rideshare programs. Companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are fairly new.

Uber drivers use Town Cars or limousines, while services like Lyft are usually just everyday people who use their personal car to make a little extra money.

Cab companies are saying that no matter how arrangements are made between the customer and the driver, it is a taxi service.

"It seemed like the perfect, flexible job for someone like me," said Lyft driver Sara Collins. "It's way different than a cab because we kind of want them to feel like it's just a friend coming to pick them up."

The city has already issued a cease-and-desist letter to three of the rideshare companies, threatening to arrest drivers and impound cars. But the taxicab companies want the city to enforce the letter.

The rideshare companies say they do not operate like cabs, so they don't need to be licensed like cabs. But Los Angeles cab companies disagree.

"In the case of these apps, they have an application on the phone that uses GPS that runs exactly like a meter," said William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab. "If you go an extra block, it charges you extra money. And so it is, in fact, a taxi meter under the city's ordinance, and so therefore they fall within the definition of taxi cabs and have to be regulated as taxi cabs."

As the city of L.A. is concerned, these ride-share companies are operating like unlicensed taxicabs. And as of this week they are considered illegal in Los Angeles.

"Our first and foremost concern is public safety," said L.A. Taxicab Administrator Tom Drischler. "These mobile phone app transportation operators are not regulated, so we can't verify for the public that they have proper insurance, that there've been background checks done on the drivers, that the vehicles have been inspected."

Officials with Uber say the Santa Monica-based company is operating legally.

"We have a signed agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission that explicitly states that we're authorized to operate anywhere in California, including Los Angeles," said Uber.com Los Angeles General Manager William Barnes.

"It's making us nervous because we feel like they come and steal our fares through these apps," said cab driver Aydin Kavak. "And you don't want any nervous or unhappy drivers out driving the public."

The city transportation department will speak to the City Council about the issue Wednesday.


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