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Taxi Fights and Fame Whores: Readers Respond 

Thursday, Aug 1 2013
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Fame Whores

Last week's cover story about a pack of prostitutes-turned–bank robbers had readers buzzing — and, yes, dreaming of the inevitable film treatment ("The Case of the Starlet Bandits," by Gene Maddaus). In addition to a few industry types looking to make a deal, we heard from a host of readers, including Rick Kardo, who writes, "Wow, that was CRAZY. There is so much in this story that I think Hollywood should make a movie. For real."

But deskjob45 writes, "Really? The best story you could find was about a pimp-rapist-loser-idiot-liar and some clueless prostitutes? And other bozo commenters here actually liked it? I laugh in disbelief."

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Taxi Wars

But Maddaus' story about the starlet bandits actually got beat out in the mailbag by his other story in the issue — about the fight between the city's cab companies and the startup services (Lyft, Uber and Sidecar) that hope to beat them at their own game ("Hacks vs. Apps").

David Tulanian writes, "In April the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on a state audit that found that nearly 1.5 million travelers were victims of 'long hauling.' As a result, customers who rode from the airport to their hotel [via taxi] were charged about $10 more than necessary! Lyft's John Zimmer is right: Fear of competition is mainly why the entrenched L.A. taxi companies oppose his — and similar — ride-sharing services. While Lyft is bad for the cabbie monopoly, it seems good for consumers."

Julieeking vents, "Three weeks ago, when I arrived at LAX at 5:50 a.m., there was a 15-minute wait for any taxi. When our taxi arrived, I gave the cabbie our address in nearby Playa del Rey, which is spitting distance, but cab still gets his minimum $20 for it. The cabbie shook his head and made a sound of — maybe disgust, maybe anger.

"This wasn't the first time, but it was the most overtly rude cabbie for me. If the cab companies really don't want to boost the competition, they need to learn basic manners, including not talking on cellphones for the entire trip, and stopping the entitled, slightly put-out attitude of having to drive people somewhere. Who isn't going to go to the ride-sharing apps with cabbies like we have in L.A.?"

But Laughtiger has a different take. "You have the story backwards," he writes. "The big 'oligopoly' in the room is not the cab companies, which are mostly local, but the multicity 'app' companies, backed by millions in investment capital and, in the case of Uber, already a multinational.

"The 'technological improvement' argument is completely meaningless, since apps like this have been around for at least a year longer than any of these other companies. All they're doing is pushing to deregulate the local cab industry — in the long term you will have powerful multicity or multinational corporations like Uber controlling cab and limo dispatch, or cab drivers trying to make a living in their own vehicles as Lyft or Sidecar 'friends with cars.' "

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