The city of Los Angeles has ordered the hipster ride app companies Lyft, Uber and Sidecar to stop operating locally because they don't have specific permission from City Hall.
The companies — we talked to two of them — claim they don't need permission. Now a Change.org petition is backing their side and urging the city to back off on its cease-and-desist order against the ride apps:
The petition to city taxicab administrator Thomas M. Drischler says that the taxi system in L.A. is overpriced, dangerous and broken, and that the people want these apps to continue to operate in our town:
Alternatives to traditional Taxi service in Los Angeles such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar offer residences a transportation solution that is much more convenient, safer, more pleasant, and often times cheaper than traditional cab service in Los Angeles.
… Citizens of Los Angeles will not standby while an effective transportation solution is pushed out due to political pressure from Taxi companies.
So far the petition has more than 3,500 signatures.
Lyft and Uber told us that they have an agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission that allows them to operate basically as limo services. The PUC says that's true, but that cities can also make the companies jump through additional hoops if they so desire.
But the city's case seems to be that the companies are sometimes operating as taxis, which can pick up people who hail cabs on the street, and not as limos, which have to adhere to strict state rules, including a mandate that they keep clear records on ride requests.
We'll keep you posted on the controversy. Stay tuned.