Showdown likely over new app-based ride services
|By Davidoff, Judith|
Taxi industry wants Lyft and
Local educator and entrepreneur
She speaks of "forward momentum advocates" and an "ecosystem of innovation." And it is in this context of change that she welcomes the recent arrival to
"It is innovating transportation beyond bus service and cabs," she says. "This is a new layer."
Both services offer customers an app that can be downloaded to a smart phone and used to order à ride.
McWalter says app-based ride services are to cabs what social network sites are to email.
"You had email, but now you have
McWalter says cities would ideally allow upstarts such as Lyft and
The laws McWalter refers to are city regulations that govern taxicab companies and drivers. City officials maintain Lyft and
In recent days,
"It's contingent upon those organizations to explain to us why they differ from cab companies and would not have to be subject to those same regulations," says Schmidt, who has been on the transit commission for five years.
"Just because it's a new idea doesn't mean it's a good idea," he adds. "Just because it's innovative doesn't mean it's fully cooked."
More, better, faster
Lyft and Über are both based in
In some cities über drivers pick up customers in black town cars, but in
Über charges a base fare, plus time and distance. Customers set up an account and the fare is automatically charged to a credit card they've provided to Über.
Lyft fares are calculated on time and distance. At the end of the ride, passengers can increase or decrease the suggested "donation," says Thelen.
Both companies, which have offered two weeks of free service in
"It tells us there is a demand for more, better, faster transportation services," she says.
But cab companies and drivers say it is unfair for these companies to operate outside the regulatory structure. Taxicab companies in
Drivers must obtain a
Taxi companies "have to be able to transport people to doctor's appointments and not just do the lucrative fares, like football Saturdays," says Pollock.
Veteran Union Cab driver
"These unregulated services are cherry-picking well-to-do communities and reducing the amount of income overall for taxi drivers," says
Adkins says drivers are also bothered that much of the money collected by Lyft and Über drivers will go out of state. "The vast majority of the money we make stays here in
Thelen disputes that Lyft grabs most of the fare. Drivers take 80% of the suggested donation and Lyft 20%, she says. "If the passenger adds more tip, 100% goes to the driver," she adds.
Perhaps the most controversial part of app-based services, though, involves insurance. "Taxicab companies carry insurance; drivers purchase it as well," says Sutton. "The cost is substantial because it covers a driver through any phase of operation, whether cruising or waiting for a fare."
Critics charge that without the requirement of insurance, riders in app-based services are largely unprotected in the event of an accident or injury. Adding fuel to this argument is the case of a 6-year-old girl killed in December in
Hourdajian says Über has a commercial liability policy in place that covers up to
Thelen says Lyft provides
Background checks are also a point of contention. The companies say they conduct comprehensive, multi-state background checks on drivers, but Sutton says they are not done by law enforcement staff.
"You can dtf background checks rigorously or you cén do them' on the cheap.
über acknowledged earlier this month that it had failed to identify the felony conviction of one of its
Cities across the country are handling these new ride services in different ways. Some have banned them and some have created two-tier systems. The taxi industry in
Resnick hopes there is a middle ground: "I would rather take the approach not to ban it, but to look for solutions and be creative with our ordinances."^
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