The state of California today gave the formal green light to ride-share apps that compete with taxi services. This after a key commissioner recommended the move.
See also: Ride-Sharing Apps Fight Back.
Does that mean companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are in the clear in cities like Los Angeles, where cabs are strictly regulated? Not necessarily. But the companies themselves say they're good to go -- and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is clearly a fan.
The apps' status in the city of Los Angeles has been a matter of some debate.
It was only early in summer when the city Department of Transportation told the firms to get out of town. Literally.
Now they'll be riding with the formal approval of the state Public Utilities Commission, which voted unanimously today to allow the to ride on with these caveats. They must ...
Obtain a license from the CPUC to operate in California;
Require each driver to undergo a criminal background check;
Establish a driver training program;
Implement a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol;
Hold a commercial liability insurance policy that is more stringent than the CPUC's current requirement for limousines, requiring a minimum of $1 million per-incident coverage for
incidents involving TNC vehicles and drivers in transit to or during a TNC trip, regardless of
whether personal insurance allows for coverage; and,
Conduct a 19-point car inspection.
The companies pretty much claim that they've already been doing all this.
Good thing they don't have these requirements at LA Weekly. We're kideen! Here's what CPUC president Michael R. Peeve had to say today:
The CPUC is at the forefront of leadership in crafting new safety based regulations for a rapidly emerging industry. The rules we created today allow Transportation Network Companies to compete with more traditional forms of transportation and for both drivers and consumers to have greater choice within the transportation industry.
Though you can't hail these rides like you can a cab, the city's taxi companies, which have to jump through mad hoops, including a limited number of cars in the city, cash for vehicles that can serve the disabled, and limits on LAX pick-ups, aren't too happy with these apps.
And cab firms have let City Hall know. So, far, however, with Garcetti in their corner, it looks like the ride-share companies are winning that battle.
[Update at 4:28 p.m.]: Here's what Mayor Garcetti's spokeswoman, Vicki Curry, had to say today:
This morning's decision is good news. Mayor Garcetti wants to see ridesharing become a fully-integrated part of L.A.'s transportation system. We want to make sure public safety is protected, and we are assessing next steps. In addition, we will continue working with our taxi companies to improve their competitiveness and service moving forward.
Rick Taylor, the lobbyist for L.A. Yellow Cab, maintained that it's unclear what the state decision means for local regulators:
The legal and safe drivers were let down today by a state agency. We will continue to try to keep the dialogue going. We think everybody in Los Angeles will try to do the right thing for legal and safe drivers.
A spokesman for the L.A. Department of Transportation, which a few months ago told the ride-share companies to stop operating in the city, says it will now regulate the apps:
The department will enforce the new California Public Utilities Commission rules regarding transportation network companies as part of our normal enforcement activities.
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Lyft issued a statement. Here's part of it:
New innovations in transportation have always played a large role in our country's economic development, from the construction of our railroad system in the 1800s that powered the industrial revolution to the Interstate Highway System of the 1900s that ushered in a new era of growth. And thanks to your involvement, we'll now be able to look back in 10 years knowing that today was a milestone that paved the way for our generation's peer economy.
-With reporting from LA Weekly staff writer Gene Maddaus.