How can ride-app outfits like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar operate in a town with strict rules about how and where taxis can do business?
It's a question we've been asking here at L.A. Weekly world headquarters. And Los Angeles Department of Transportation taxicab administrator Thomas Drischler this week came up with an answer.
Namely, they can't:
In a cease-and-desist letter sent to those three companies, Drischler accused them of …
… operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service in the City of Los Angeles. In the interest of public safety, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are hereby directed to cease and desist from picking up passengers within the City of Los Angeles.
Of course, Lyft, for one, calls what it does “on-demand ridesharing.” Sidecar has a similar business plan; Uber appears to be a straight-up car and taxi service.
The LADOT seems to be arguing that Lyft and Sidecar allow anyone to become an instant cabbie without having to adhere by the city's strict regulations on cabs. (Drivers can sign up to give rides in exchange for cash.)
Of course, the taxi companies aren't too pleased with the services. A statement from a rep for the firms says:
Drivers for Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are not required to pass background checks or have their vehicles inspected for safety.
The local cabbies are planning to rally at City Hall against the newcomers today at 9 a.m.
William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab:
These rogue taxis are bypassing all safety regulations created to protect riders and drivers. Not only are these high-tech bandit cabs unsafe, they are breaking regulatory standards and disenfranchising safe, legal taxi drivers.