Many rejoiced a couple weeks ago when the L.A. Board of Airport Commissioners approved a plan to allow UberX and Lyft to operate at LAX.
Well, not so fast. Today, six L.A. City Council members moved to reconsider the decision, citing "significant questions" about background checks, discrimination and environmental concerns. The council is expected to debate the issue next week. If 10 of the 15 members agree to "assert jurisdiction" over the board's decision, then the council would have another three weeks to either approve the plan or veto it. If 10 members vote to reject it, it would go back to the airport commission for more work.
Councilman Paul Krekorian is leading the effort to reconsider the commission's decision. In an interview, Krekorian cited concerns about the background checks that ridesharing companies use to screen drivers. Those checks do not require fingerprints, and are not as stringent as the checks used for taxi drivers.
"My obligation is to ensure we keep the traveling public as safe as we can," Krekorian said. "That isn’t gonna be dictated by the business plan or decisions made by any particular company."
Several other airports have approved Uber and Lyft recently, including San Francisco, San Diego and John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
But in San Jose, the ridesharing companies have hit a snag. In June, the San Jose City Council voted to allow Uber and Lyft into the airport, but on the condition that they use fingerprint-based background checks. Lyft's representatives said they would not operate at the airport under that requirement.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has been an adamant supporter of Uber and Lyft, promising in his State of the City address in April that the companies would be allowed to operate at LAX by this summer. In a statement today, Garcetti said the ridesharing companies are "an important part of my plan to improve the passenger experience and build the world-class airport that Los Angeles deserves."
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"I welcome the council's discussion on this issue," he said.
Krekorian said he is not at odds with Garcetti, nor is he attacking Uber and Lyft. The goal, he said, is to spur discussion and compromise. In addition to the safety issues, Krekorian said he wanted to ensure that rideshare drivers will serve disabled passengers and drive to low-income communities.
Krekorian also said he is not doing the bidding of the taxi industry, which has bitterly opposed the encroachment of ridesharing companies into their traditional monopoly.
"I couldn’t care less how that ride is generated or what the nature of the company is," he said. "My goal is that the person who gets into the car is safe regardless of what the paint color is and who the driver works for."