UberX: LAX police chief says officers have no choice but to ticket ride-share drivers

Why have LAX police made it so difficult for UberX to operate at the airport?

Why have LAX police made it so difficult for UberX to operate at the airport?

There are more important stories than whether Los Angeles International Airport allows UberX and Lyft drivers to make pickups and drop-offs. I realize this. However, I got a chance on Wednesday to ask airport police chief Patrick Gannon why airport police have been assessing so many tickets recently to ride-sharing drivers.

“It is not fair to cite other taxis and limos for not following the applicable rules here at the airport and not apply the same rules to others,” Gannon said. “That is where the rub is. I would prefer that some agreement is made to allow everybody to work appropriately here. But in the meantime they are not sanctioned.”

As we’ve said before, there are two main issues. The first is that most drivers for UberX and Lyft do not have proper permits from LAX to legally make airport pickups. (LAX gets to make its own rules.) The second is that most drivers for the two ride-share companies lack commercial insurance. And since the drivers are providing a commercial service, the police say they should have the right insurance. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Belinda Nettles told me LAX officers gave out 112 citations for “no commercial insurance” in January alone. (Most of the insurance citations are considered “secondary violations,” which means that airport police pull over the drivers for another reason and then ask to see insurance papers.)

We know that elsewhere in California, drivers have found police more willing to look the other way. But Gannon said that’s not a feasible approach at LAX.

“I cant just ignore the rules and the law,” Gannon said. “That kind of puts my officers in a bad position as to to when they are having to enforce the law fairly across the board.”

Gannon did have some potentially good news for ride-sharing aficionados. He said some of the ride-share companies have been in talks with LAX management to get drivers the proper paperwork to operate there. Of course, those drivers would still need commercial insurance.

“There is a well established protocol as to how that works and a requirement for people to able to operate here,” Gannon said. “It’s all done for all the right reasons to make sure that we protect passengers and that they are not victimized by unscrupulous people.”

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LAX police gave out at least 112 citations to UberX and Lyft drivers in January

Police at Los Angeles International Airport gave out 112 citations in January to ride-share drivers, mainly from UberX and Lyft, for a lack of commercial insurance, a police spokeswoman said.

All of the citations were either secondary or tertiary violations, Sgt. Belinda Nettles said in an email. What does this mean? It means that the police pulled over the driver for another reason — maybe a broken taillight — and then discovered the driver lacked a commercial insurance policy. A driver who shared his ticket with this blog was caught for having tinted windows. He got a warning for the windows but received citations for the insurance.

Nettles said there were only 10 of these violations in February. There was no data yet available from March.

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Are LAX police ticketing UberX drivers? An officer tells his side of the story.

LAXPD Citation

Los Angeles International Airport police have made catching UberX and Lyft drivers a priority but only because most of the drivers are not in compliance with the law, according to a phone call I received this morning from an airport police officer familiar with operations.

The officer has been reading this blog and saw my report — complete with a picture of the ticket — earlier this week about an UberX driver who was cited after making a drop-off for not having proper commercial insurance. The officer thinks I’ve been unfair to LAX police, who are just enforcing the law. The officer, not surprisingly, has asked to remain anonymous, and I have decided not to quote the officer here, even though I did take notes on our conversation.

The officer says nearly all drivers from UberX and Lyft are not in compliance with California Vehicle Code 260, which deals with “Commercial Vehicles.” The officer has been citing the drivers for not having proper commercial insurance and not having cars registered as commercial vehicles.

UberX drivers say the insurance issue is a major problem. While they can buy it, many drivers say if they are forced to do so they will no longer be able to afford to drive for the ride-service. Commercial insurance is expensive.

But the commercial vehicle issue is not unique to the airport. I asked the officer why enforcement is so robust at LAX when I rarely hear of LAPD officers making similar traffic stops elsewhere in the city. He said that LAX police are one of the few police agencies enforcing the law because the airport — with its own special police force — has the resources for it. The airport also gets a disproportionate number of ride-share cars.

The officer said police have been trying to only make stops when there is no passenger in the car. But this enforcement action is still likely to impact LAX ride-share services, as some drivers have told me they prefer not to serve the airport.

As I reported in January, UberX has already stopped facilitating LAX pickups. The reason for that decision was different and not related to insurance. LAX has its own rules about which type of car services can legally make airport pickups, and most UberX drivers lack the proper permits. Lyft drivers have the same problem, but the Lyft app will still let you summon a car at LAX. (I wouldn’t recommend it, though, as the chances your driver will be ticketed are reasonably high.)

I told the officer that many of my readers are upset that the airport has taken a tougher stance on ride-sharing drivers than other police agencies. The officer said he felt for the passengers, but said police have to enforce the law.

What do you think? Is this enforcement action a good thing? Or should police look the other way?

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Photo: An UberX driver shares a citation he received at LAX

Earlier today, I wrote about one UberX driver who reported that Los Angeles International Airport police were taking an especially tough line today against ride-sharing drivers. Airport police disputed that assertion, with a spokeswoman telling me that there was no heightened enforcement today. She said that LAX police always enforce traffic laws and that drivers, such as my source, know they must have valid commercial insurance to make airport drop-offs and pickups.

The driver sent me a scanned version of the ticket he received. I have redacted his identifying information and the information on his passenger. But here’s what he got cited for:

LAXPD CitationThis is just another notice that if you use UberX or Lyft or any similar service to go to or from LAX, you need to understand your driver might be cited. Airport police officers have taken a much harsher stance against ride-sharing drivers than the LAPD. If your driver is cited, you won’t be in any trouble, but it will cause a slight hiccup in your travel day .

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Are LAX police cracking down on Lyft, Uber & Sidecar drivers? (again)

Is there a ride-sharing crackdown going on (again) at LAX? Photo credit: Associated Press.

Is there a ride-sharing crackdown going on (again) at LAX? Photo credit: Associated Press.

UPDATE: Sgt. Belinda Nettles of Los Angeles World Airports police says there is no crackdown, per se. Instead, she says any tickets given out today are part of regular enforcement from the airport police commercial enforcement unit. “We don’t have anything going on, according to what they are telling me,” she said “There is no special details. It is just regular enforcement.”

As for why airport police are citing drivers at all, Nettles referred to an earlier statement given to me by airport police: “Airport Police will continue to enforce laws, rules, and regulations regarding vehicular operation on LAWA property, such as the Los Angeles Municipal Code, the California Vehicle Code, and the Airport Rules and Regulations.”

ORIGINAL STORY: I’ve received a tip that Los Angeles International Airport police are engaging in at least a one-day crackdown today (March 24) against drivers for UberX, Uber, Sidecar, Lyft and other similar ride-sharing services.

This comes from one of my best sources on the matter, a driver for one of the services who says he was ticketed because the VIN number on his car did not match the VIN number on his insurance policy. He said there were three airport police officers giving tickets today, and he sent me a photo of his ticket.

I am trying to learn what is going on from airport police. It is possible, of course, that it could be less of a crackdown and more of a situation where my source was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But we know from previous stories that airport police have had an at times hostile relationship with ride-sharing drivers. Unlike elsewhere in Los Angeles, where the companies tend to operate freely, the airport has made it difficult for ride-sharing drivers. This is for a couple of reasons. For one, the airport can make its own rules. And second, the airport has its own police force, so there’s actually a mechanism for enforcement. (As a result of this enforcement, the most popular of the services, UberX, actually pulled out of LAX in January.)

In the past, airport police have only ticketed drivers making pick-ups at LAX. But this may be changing. I think drop-offs are also being affected. I will let you know as soon as I know more.

If you’re a passenger, the one thing to know is that you will not be in trouble and will not be cited. It might be uncomfortable if the driver gets pulled over — one women I spoke to was questioned by police — but you’ll be free to go soon enough.

If you know anything more about what is happening today, please contact me at brian.sumers@langnews.com .

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