Los Angeles

Taxicab Drivers Protest Uber, Other Ride-share Apps

Drivers say the popular services are dangerous without added regulation, background checks

Taxi drivers lined the steps of Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday to call for added regulation of competing ride-share services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, supported by local councilmen.

The drivers pressed for added regulation of the services, which are not licensed in the same way as taxi cabs companies, and whose drivers are not subject to the same extensive background checks.

“I would ask my daughter not to ride in an Uber car because, in my opinion, they are unsafe. We’ve seen incidents where Uber riders right here in Los Angeles, as well as all around the nation, have been endangered,” City Councilman Paul Koretz said in a statement. “Without regulation, these ride-sharing services should not be allowed to operate on our streets.”

Koretz and Councilman Gil Cedillo are backing state Assembly Bill 612, sponsored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys, which would require ride-share operators to carry $1 million in insurance for drivers at all times as well as conduct regulated background checks on participating drivers.

The rapid growth of car-for-hire companies has drawn ire from both city officials and competing cab companies in Los Angeles.

"We have to obey so many regulations, so many fees and then those people can take a car from home which is not regulated. You don't know if the brakes are OK," said cab driver Samuel Blum.

In June 2013, Uber, Lyft and Sidecar were sent a cease-and-desist order from the city’s taxicab administrator, Tom Drischler - although that was stymied by a potential takeover of the services' regulations by a state agency. 

Last year, Uber, Lyft and Sidecar reached an agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission that allowed the start-ups to continue operation while the rule-making process continues.

Crackdowns on unlicensed taxicab operators have routinely taken place at LAX, where many flock to pick up customers who order a car on their smartphone.

In the first four months of the year, LAX police wrote 200 citations to UberX drivers for illegally picking up passengers at the airport.

Police run the records of the drivers cited, and said that some of the UberX drivers they have encountered have criminal records, the NBC4 I-Team found in an investigation earlier this year.

One driver was a registered sex offender and was at the airport to pick up a 22-year-old woman who was traveling alone.

During Tuesday’s protest, cab drivers plan to address the city council during its public comment session to urge additional requirements and crackdowns.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he supports the growth of the new offshoot of the cab industry, but also acknowledged the need for regulations.

Officials for Uber have said the company voluntarily conducts background checks on its drivers, and company-owned cars are covered by insurance.

"The facts are that Uber is permitted by the CPUC to operate in California, its background safety standards are higher and more consistent than traditional transportation services like cabs, and Uber has the industry-leading insurance coverage to ensure every driver and rider is covered," the company said in a statement Tuesday.

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