It is against the rules at LAX for ride-sharing drivers from UberX, Sidecar and Lyft to pick up passengers. So why are they doing so anyway, almost with impunity?
From what I learned in writing my story for today’s newspaper, it’s because LAX police are not enforcing airport rules. Technically, drivers can only pick up travelers for money if they have the proper permits. Most rideshare drivers do not have these permits. (That shouldn’t be a surprise, as most aren’t really professional drivers.)
I tried to press an airport police spokeswoman on whether officers were tacitly allowing UberX, Sidecar and Lyft to operate at LAX, but she declined to engage me. Instead, she simply said that LAX police were tasked with enforcing all laws and regulations. But I asked around, and I don’t get a feeling any drivers are being hit with citations.
Taxi drivers are apoplectic, and I think they may have a point. They must collect a $4 fee for every fare they pick up at the airport. The ride-sharing firms do not collect this fee, which makes their fares cheaper.
Eventually, I predict that ride-sharing drivers will get clearance from LAX to pick up passengers. But I suspect the process with be regulated in some way, and perhaps they’ll have to pay a fee to the airport for pickups — just like cab drivers.
It looks like lovers of car-sharing apps can sleep well tonight. Representatives from two of the three companies hit with cease-and-desist letters from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation suggested they will continue to operate.
Both Uber and Lyft cited the California Public Utilities Commission, which earlier this year cleared both companies to operate in the state of California. Sidecar, which was also hit with a letter from Los Angeles, also is permitted by the commission to operate, though company officials did not respond to my request for comment.
“We already signed an agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission explicitly stating that Uber services, including the eco-friendly uberX, are authorized to operate statewide,” an Uber spokesman wrote me in an email. “In this case, it’s the state PUC who has jurisdiction, and the PUC has explicitly given the authority for these drivers to operate.”
A Lyft spokeswoman sent a statement from company founder and president John Zimmer.
“Yesterday’s cease and desist letter from a taxi regulator within the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is similar to what we received when we first launched in San Francisco one year ago. Since that time, we have
signed an operating agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which allows us to operate legally throughout California. The CPUC operating agreement clarifies that we are not a taxi and demonstrates that this is a state issue.”
1 p.m. UPDATE: We received a more thorough non-Twitter response from Lyft:
“Lyft’s hundreds of thousands of community members are changing the way
people get around, and making city life more affordable, friendly and
efficient. As with innovations and movements before us, there will
often be challenges and hurdles along the way. Yesterday’s cease and
desist letter from a taxi regulator within the Los Angeles Department
of Transportation (LADOT) is similar to what we received when we first
launched in San Francisco one year ago. Since that time, we have
signed an operating agreement with the California Public Utilities
Commission (CPUC), which allows us to operate legally throughout
California. The CPUC operating agreement clarifies that we are not a
taxi and demonstrates that this is a state issue.”
ORIGINAL POST: In response to my story Monday about the cease and desist letters sent by Los Angeles to ride-sharing firms, I heard today from Lyft, one of the companies told to stop operating in Los Angeles.
Like Uber and Sidecar, the company was told by the L.A. taxi administrator that it is not properly licensed to facilitate car pickups in the city. I’ve heard from many customers upset about this development. Consumers, especially younger ones, seem to appreciate the opportunity to arrange shared rides via mobile phone apps. Most say they they don’t mind that the drivers aren’t professionally licensed as livery drivers.
Here are a series of Tweets I received today from Lyft. The CPUC referenced below is the California Public Utilities Commission:
@BrianSumers The Mayor and Mayor-elect support the sharing economy and we look forward to working with them moving forward.
@BrianSumers We have an operating agreement with the CPUC allowing us to operate statewide in CA. http://blog.lyft.me/post/41875764373/progress-lyft-reaches-interim-agreement-with-cpuc …
@BrianSumers We’re in touch with Mayor Villaraigosa’s office and look forward to resolving LADOT’s questions.
Three popular car-for-hire companies — Sidecar, Uber and Lyft — received cease-and-desist letters Monday from the city of Los Angeles, accusing them of operating illegally.
I’ll have a full story up soon. But in the meantime, below are the letters sent today by the city’s taxicab administrator. They’re short. Each is only about a page and a half.
It’s not yet clear what the companies will do in response.
Uber Cease & Desist LADOT June 24, 2013
Sidecar Cease & Desist LADOT June 24, 2013
Lyft Cease & Desist LADOT June 24, 3012