By Ben Bergman, September 18, 2013
Peter Faris, shown here in Washington, D.C. in February 2013, is an independent driver who works with Uber.
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have quickly gained popularity in Los Angeles. But for all their “hip” factor, they’ve also been rogue operators.
That could change Thursday, when California could become the first state in the nation to enact formal ride-sharing regulations.
It could be a quick change of fate for ride-sharing in L.A. Less than three months ago, the city’s taxi commissioner issued terse cease-desist letters to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The companies neither ceased nor desisted, and a pro-tech and pro ride-sharing mayor came into office.
Now the taxi commission says it will follow the will of California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The agency will be voting Thursday to establish a new category of businesses called “Transportation Network Companies.”
“If this type of process allows us to better communicate the way we operate and the safety measures we take, that’s a positive thing” Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said Wednesday.
You may have seen his company’s cars, with the pink moustache on the front.
Normally, the last thing companies want is more regulation, but in this case, the ride-sharing operators crave the legitimacy the new rules bring.
If the proposal is approved Thursday, drivers would be required to:
- Undergo criminal background checks
- Undergo training
- Carry at least a million dollars in insurance
- Obtain a license from the CPUC
- Follow a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol
“We’re going to do everything we can do to comply with all the new rules, he said. “But many of these things we’ve been doing since the beginning.”
As you might imagine, the taxi industry is less than thrilled about ride-sharing going legit.
And there are those who worry about the unintended consequences of the new services, like the effect on those who live in poorer neighborhoods.
“The city regulates and pays attention to data about whether taxi companies are responding to calls from certain neighborhoods,” said Gary Blasi, a Professor of Law Emeritus at UCLA law who’s studied the taxi industry. “With so-called ride-share companies, that will be an individual driver decision. I would predict with 99 percent certainty, that will lead to less service.”
Blasi has never taken a ride from the likes of Lyft, Uber, or Sidecar. He says he prefers the bus.