|By Daniel Rothberg, The Sacramento Bee|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The part-time citizen chauffeurs who drive UberX's sedans or Lyft's pink-mustached cars instead sign onto a smartphone app, which logs their location and matches them with prospective riders nearby.
For passengers who request a car through the ride-sharing apps, the service is hip, efficient and cheap. UberX advertises a flat rate of
The result: a service in high demand.
Yet as the
Lawmakers and the
But ride-sharing firms, the primary targets of new regulations, reject nearly all of the proposed rules. While companies like UberX and Lyft say they are willing to compromise, they view the current push as an unnecessary threat to their popular business model, one intended to leave them at a competitive disadvantage.
"The sharing economy and those who are disrupting established business models are definitely drawing the ire of traditional special interest groups, in this case in the transportation sector," said
Shouting from a podium in front of the Capitol, Lyft driver
"As I saw with the transition from the typewriter to the PC, new technologies bring new opportunities and benefits," Crane said. "And our laws must adapt to embrace these changes."
At the end of last year, the PUC, which regulates UberX and Lyft, established regulations and a new commercial category for ride-sharing firms: "transportation network companies," or TNCs. Last week, the commission took action to enforce its existing rules, sending warning letters to five ride-sharing companies -- Lyft, SideCar, Summons, UberX and Wingz. The letters argue that the companies violated regulations that ban TNCs from servicing airports without a permit.
"It's important that these companies have permits,"
UberX and Lyft said they plan to continue working with
She said the airport is open to commercial ride sharing, but that UberX and Lyft drivers must follow the same permitting procedure as their cabbie counterparts, raising an unsettled question at the root of any ride-sharing debate: Are UberX and Lyft taxis?
It's a question that ride-sharing loyalists and opponents constantly try to answer, albeit in different ways, as regulators attempt to stake out a position on several issues, including background checks for drivers and insurance responsibility for ride-sharing companies.
The PUC's current rule requires the companies to provide
But determining the definition of services is problematic. The companies agree that their drivers are clearly working from the time they are matched with a rider to when the passenger is dropped off. During that time, most ride-sharing companies provide
But they should not have to provide that level of coverage for times when drivers simply have the app on, said
Estrada said the drivers could, for example, have the app on while sitting at home or driving to the grocery store. "The driving behavior is categorically different from taxis," he said.
In a move to clarify its rules, the PUC proposed last week that companies be required to provide
Those rules would be made law in Assembly Bill 2293, sponsored by Assemblywoman
Ride-sharing companies, however, have attacked the bill as serving to benefit insurance companies, citing concern that
"Today's hearing demonstrated that there is no clear consensus about how to best determine appropriate levels of insurance for ride sharing, and we will continue working with legislators to ensure that consumers, drivers and passengers have the ability to access safe rides from the Lyft community,"
Taxi drivers like
That approach was rejected in Tuesday's hearing.
A bill spearheaded by Assemblyman
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