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SF Airport Officials Make Citizen Arrests of Internet Rideshare Drivers 510

Posted by Soulskill
from the sharing-is-caring-except-when-it's-apparently-illegal dept.
transporter_ii writes "In the past month, San Francisco International Airport officials have been citing and arresting drivers from mobile-app enabled rideshare companies that pick up and drop off passengers, an airport spokesman said. Doug Yakel said there have been seven citizen arrests issued to 'various offenders' since July 10. The airport had issued cease and desist letters to several rideshare companies, including Lyft, Sidecar and Uber, in April. Taxi drivers are holding a noon rally at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday to 'keep taxis regulated and safe' and are calling for the end of ridesharing services."
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SF Airport Officials Make Citizen Arrests of Internet Rideshare Drivers

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  • by johnny5555 (2843249) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:37AM (#44432117)
    The California Public Utilities Commission is setting guidelines making ride-sharing legal. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57596259-93/uber-lyft-and-sidecar-get-tentative-green-light-in-calif/ [cnet.com]
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:37AM (#44432119) Homepage

    Are the cars marked or painted with the company names and/or logos?

    For one of the companies at least, the cars are wearing pink mustaches. (yes, really)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:42AM (#44432147)

    No. In the USA, an "indictable offense" is by legal definition a felony. These citizens arrests are not for felonies.

    Stop using words and phrases when you don't know what they mean, OK?

  • Re:What. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Splab (574204) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:46AM (#44432181)

    This is actually not an American only thing.

    Generally, you must have a license to be a taxi driver, ride sharing like that is akin (and probably in the eyes of the government equal to) operating a taxi service, thus, if you are not licensed to do so, you are breaking the law.

  • Re:What. (Score:5, Informative)

    by pthisis (27352) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:55AM (#44432207) Homepage Journal

    Part of the confusion is that these aren't really ride"shares", they're closer to being unlicensed cab companies. Or maybe limo companies--they don't pick up random street fares, you have to put in a request through their apps. Passengers put in online requests and pay the drivers to come and pick them up and drive them somewhere, and while there's not a mandatory fee there is a "suggested fee" given in the app at the end of the ride and the rating system ensures that passengers who don't pay get cut out of the system quickly. The company takes a percentage of each fare (20% is typical).

    All of which I'm okay with (taxi monopolies are ridiculous, and the lyft/sidecar/etc market has settled on rates that are about 30% lower than what hack rates are set at), but they're for-profit companies where drivers typically make $30+ an hour. It's not like they're shutting down a "rideshare" in the sense that it sounds like.

    All three of these companies have previously been fined by the California Public Utilities Commission and issued cease and desists. But the timing is surprising. CPUC had recently reversed the fines and C&Ds against all three after ensuring that they'd follow some safety regulations going forward--they're in the process of getting their drivers licensed, have agreed to have criminal background checks for all drivers (some of them did that already), and have picked up bond insurance for passengers, etc.

    It looked before today like they were in the process of coming into compliance and that CPUC was backing down from a previously confrontational position in light of those concessions. See, for instance, http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57596259-93/uber-lyft-and-sidecar-get-tentative-green-light-in-calif/ [cnet.com] They've gone through the same thing in other cities (I know they have at least tentative approval in New York after going through a lot of back and forth to make sure that they're not just bandit cabs that operate by no rules).

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:00AM (#44432231)

    Why should someone else be able to pick up strangers for the cost of gas?

    Why shouldn't someone else be able to pick up strangers for the cost of gas?

    On top of that there are vehicle licenses, inspections and higher insurance.

    This adds nothing of value . . . except to the government and insurance agencies. All cars need licenses, inspections and insurance anyway. If you are using your car for professional purposes, you need to report it to your insurance company anyway.

    You can't tell me that the driver does not get a few bucks for the trouble.

    No, I shouldn't tell you, but the drivers should report it to the IRS as income.

    The whole thing is about protecting the taxi business from competition.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:26AM (#44432337)

    http://jpdefense.com/new-york-criminal-defense/2011/01/can-a-defendant-be-indicted-in-new-york-state-on-a-misdemeanor-charge/ [jpdefense.com]

    An indictment is a written statement charging a party with the commission of a crime or other offense, drawn up by a prosecuting attorney and found and presented by a grand jury. Although the idea of a person being indicted on a misdemeanor charge may be uncommon, since the purpose of an indictment is generally used to charge a person with a felony; itâ(TM)s not always the case. ...(deleted text)

    When a defendant is indicted in New York Criminal Court on a misdemeanor charge, he is subject to a petit jury hearing which has a total of six members. This hearing is used to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant.

    If the misdemeanor is prosecuted by the indictment, then the defendant is entitled to twelve jurors even though the highest charge is a misdemeanor. ...(deleted text)

  • by Camael (1048726) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:27AM (#44432349)

    Before regulating, how about the existing cab companies clean up their own act first.

    From TFA:-

    Taxi drivers are holding a noon rally at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday to “keep taxis regulated and safe” and are calling for the end of ridesharing services.

    They are calling the growing practice a “clear public safety hazard.”

    Apparently, regulated taxis in San Francisco are so safe that theres a dedicated webpage discussing homicide prevention strategies [taxi-library.org]. For cabs specifically in SF only.

    And one of the main reasons ridesharing is taking off is that apparently existing regulated cabs offer terrible service [baycitizen.org].

    San Francisco taxi drivers routinely flout the law by refusing rides, declining to take credit cards, charging unauthorized fees, speeding, smoking, and talking and texting on cellphones while driving, according to a year’s worth of passenger complaints reviewed by The Bay Citizen.

    Taxis infested with bed bugs, drivers falling asleep at the wheel, rude behavior and difficulty getting a cab also were among the complaints. One patron reported that a cab driver allegedly stole his credit card number and used it to make purchases in Brazil. And two friends were upset when a driver offered them a 10 percent discount if they made out in front of him.

    Actually, hmm, my sympathies might lie with the cab driver on the making out bit. But only if shes hot. ^_-

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:39AM (#44432377) Homepage

    They didn't just get made up because it was fun to regulate taxi drivers, they're there to protect people getting into the back of cars with strangers driving them.

    Oh, please. They are there because the taxi drivers lobbied for it, going as far as rioting in the streets, beating the other drivers senseless and cutting off traffic in the financial districts, because during the great depression everyone who had a car was competing with them.

    Here's an article from 1934: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17056337/ [nla.gov.au]

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:44AM (#44432387)

    They didn't just get made up because it was fun to regulate taxi drivers

    No, they got made up because someone could then make money from ALL drivers picking up someone, and furthermore artificially jacking up prices by lowering supply.

    No, the whole thing is about protecting people from ending up in the back of "taxis" that couldn't or wouldn't get through

    Ha! Spoken like someone who has never been in a real taxi. In London perhaps with the black cabs we could buy your bullshit. In most other cities or most other companies you just need to fork over the VERY LARGE amount of cash required to join the club - your only instructors required being Washington and Benjamin.

  • by Camael (1048726) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:47AM (#44432399)

    It's all about the money. The SF airport officials want their cut of the fares and are bullying the rideshare cabs to get it. This is what they said in April [sfexaminer.com] :-

    The airport has demanded that six different ridesharing companies quit their SFO operations until further notice.

    “It’s not fair for the cab companies that go through the permitting process to compete with these unregistered vehicles,” said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. “Not only are we talking about the limited space at the airport, but also the safety of our passengers.”

    A trip to the airport can result in a $50 fare for cabs, but drivers must pay nominal fees each time they enter and exit the hub as part of the permitting process overseen by the CPUC. SFO wants all ridesharing companies to be certified by the CPUC before operating at the airport.

    So, when banning the ridesharing cabs (who don't pay their 'nominal fees') didn't work, they started arresting the cab drivers [arstechnica.com].

    After the cease and desist order was issued, airport officials and police began “admonishing” rideshare drivers who dropped off or picked up passengers at the airport.

    Starting July 10, airport officials began slapping rideshare operators with citizen arrests for trespassing when they were discovered at the airport. “This is not the type of arrest where somebody gets put in jail,” Doug Yakel told Ars. “It's a misdemeanor and it's for trespassing.” Yakel went on to say that the curbside airport police observe and “have the right to question drivers,” if they see anything that appears to indicate ridesharing. Tells include anything from the giant pink mustache that Lyft drivers slap on their car grill to seeing the rider and driver exchange money before the rider leaves. “There could be a variety of different things that [airport police] would be looking for to see if there's a rideshare transaction,” Yakel explained.

    At that point, airport police contact an airport official, who writes the rideshare driver a citation for a court date. Yakel said that officials are writing citations under California Penal Code section 602.4, which states that people offering “goods, merchandise, property, or services of any kind whatsoever” on airport property, without the airport's permission, are guilty of a misdemeanor. Yakel told Ars that he didn't know how high the fine for such a misdemeanor might be.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zironic (1112127) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @04:47AM (#44432635)

    It's not the airport charging that fee. The railroad to Arlanda is one of the only private rails in Sweden in a deal where the builder, A-Train (Arlanda Express) would get monopoly on rail traffic to the airport for 40 years.

  • Re:What. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @04:52AM (#44432659)

    They're not being arrested and hauled off to jail. "Arrest" means they were stopped and cited, ie, given a ticket.

    Ride share used to mean a group of people who shared a ride to work or a nearby location; possibly renting a van as a group. This new thing is a smart phone app that pairs you up with someone wanting a ride. Technically it could just be about finding someone in your area who is going to the same location you are. In practice people are turning this into an actual business, in essence they are becoming a taxi service with a smaller fare but without following regulations regarding taxis/limousines/shuttles or getting a license. The SFO airport considers these professional ridesharers to be trespassing.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Informative)

    by rylin (688457) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @05:06AM (#44432707)

    Note that the Arlada Express train does not have a paid exit, and the 75 SEK (~10 USD) fee is you're on a monthly travel card going by commuter train.

    If you simply get a one way ticket on the commuter train (130 SEK or so), the exit cost is included in the price.

    There really isn't a difference from some of the other train lines (Further than BÃ¥lsta requires an extra ticket, as does travel to Gnesta I believe).

    Also, you can get a monthly card that actually includes the Arlanda station fee.

    Obviously, neither taxis, private cars, Uber et.c. get to drop you off where you are.
    However, the pre-filled line with cabs is regulated to be only Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir and Taxi 020 to my knowledge.

    Others can just simply pick you up next to that queue.

    Basically, you've been misinformed.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @06:18AM (#44432981) Journal

    Metro Airport in Detroit has a similar scam going on. They built a fancy new parking structure about 20 years ago.

    Now, like many airports, they had private parking places, long-term, off site, that dropped off customers and picked them up. However, their own. new place, being unable to compete (rage as you hear this, shocked, shocked you are) passed a law slapping a 30% tax on them.

    This exactly demonstrates government in action w.r.t. efficiency, and what isn't supposed to happen in a free country. Private business isn't supposed to be able to use law to hinder the competition, much less government businesses.

    Oh, hotels nearby frequently had outstate people drive in, spend the night, then fly out leaving their cars in the hotel lots as a bonus. The airport outlawed this, too. This is the kind of BS context in which the nearby city of Detroit is going bankrupt.

  • by cardpuncher (713057) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:02AM (#44433425)

    If you're looking for reason #8733, the first time I flew into SFO there was a cop standing next to a pedestrian crossing en route to the rental car lot ticketing all the furriners who didn't realise that pedestrian signals were mandatory and who were crossing against the light. I'm sure he believed it was in the interests of "safety", too, and nothing at all to do with finding an easy way to meet his performance metrics.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:20AM (#44434109)

    The legal system disappears if everyone decides they can decide on their own which laws to be ignored.

    The thing you overlook is WHY people start to ignore laws. It becomes common practice in a country to ignore laws which people do not like when the number and complexity of laws and regulations exceed the ability of anyone to keep track of what they need to do to remain in compliance with those laws and regulations. The U.S. has reached that point and has reached the point where that is beginning to happen. It has gotten so bad that the President of the United States decides on his own which laws to ignore, even when some of those laws were ones that he fought to have passed.

  • Re:Well (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:48AM (#44434463)

    Last I checked, it wasn't against any laws to give someone a ride to the airport. If the passenger feels like tipping the person for the ride, then again, that is not illegal either.

    Less taxi's in the world, the better it would be.

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Informative)

    by haystor (102186) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:51AM (#44434513)

    Most places in the US, the taxi service is highly regulated not merely for safety but for the purpose of excluding competition. The common "regulation" is that a new taxi service must show customer demand that requires their new service. This is typically overseen by a board of their competitors who never seem to agree that they need another competitor.

    You're spot on about the near impossibility of starting a new cab in a lot of major US cities. The price of a medallion for a cab in NYC is roughly $360k for an independent operator. They have a fixed number and nobody else is allowed to participate, regardless of need or service availability.

    The concept of "everyone should play by the same rules" is pointless with some groups are grandfathered in and allowed to play.

    Having read some discussions of Uber in Sweden, I think, regulation just meant a proper license, posting fares and insurance. All relatively reasonable requirements of a regular taxi service. There are issues with the posting of fares as Uber is a one-off service of unique trips, but that's perhaps an issue of updating the law. There is still the problem of traditional taxi services using the law to prevent a new service from coming into existence. They aren't truly interested in the customer who this law is supposed to support.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Informative)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:55AM (#44434575)

    The prices are set by the local authorities

    In NYC it is even worse. The licenses (or medallions) are sold as commodities. I think the latest estimate is that one goes for over $1,000,000 in NYC now.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

    by artfulshrapnel (1893096) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:59AM (#44434627)

    No, there are several competing taxi services and any company that wants to start a taxi company can start a service...

    Check up on the "medallion" system and how it's been manipulated to get an idea of how your statement (though technically correct) is not practically true. The gist is that there are a limited number of "medallions" or similar tokens given out to allow roaming taxi operators, and new ones are allotted only rarely. Due to this lock on competition there is a lot of bribery and corruption in deciding who gets them during the "random" selection, and a common scam of medallion holders continuing to hold them while not operating a service, then renting them out for exorbitant prices to other operators.

    There's a process for changing laws if people think they are outdated.

    Historically, what's happening is exactly how most regulatory laws get changed. Someone starts by showing that their service is in-demand and safe. Eventually they are challenged on whether they're breaking some regulatory limit, and either fight it in court or petition the local government to make the needed changes.

    Now these new companies are coming in and saying essentially, "The rules don't apply to us because we're special.," or, "Fuck the rules."

    Actually, they're arguing that people are trying to apply the wrong rules to them. Since their drivers don't roam and pick people up at random, instead arriving on request to pick up a specific individual, they have typically been arguing that they are a chartered transportation service. Those services are regulated under different rules, so Lyft, Uber et al are obeying those regulations. They're claiming that the fact that they book their rides minutes in advance instead of days doesn't change the nature of their business, since the only change is the speed at which they deliver the requested service. The taxi operators are trying to get them classed as taxis because those companies have a lock on the limited number of permits for such vehicles, which would allow them to shut down a source of potential competition.

    In terms of obeying the spirit of the law, Lyft and Uber actually pass that test fairly well. The most commonly cited reason for the limited number of taxi medallions given out is to keep people from clogging up the roadways with idling taxis waiting for fares. Uber and Lyft drivers park or idle in parking lots and other out of the way places, only entering the roadways to pick up a customer.

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