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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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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Entropy98 (1340659) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:24AM (#44432051) Homepage

    Regulations = safety... right?

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:57AM (#44432213)

      Regulations = safety... right?

      You declared it.

      You should have said
      Regulations == Safety.

      And here is where you need to understand the intent rather then the method. Regulations can be and are often used as important tools for safety, regulations prohibit engine destroying additives being added to fuel, encourage electrical systems to have devices that prevent electrocution, lower prices by fostering a single standard that is available for everyone.

      OTOH, regulations can be used for evil, to lock out competition and fix prices for example.

      So you cant say all regulations are evil without being extremely ignorant. It's the intent, not the method that determines if something is helpful or harmful.

      And yes, I've lived in a country with very few regulations... This makes building anything to be a full time job just making sure they put the plumbing and electrics in right, so the house doesn't burn down.. We're not even considering the time checking and chasing up on shonky plastering jobs.

      • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:47AM (#44432393)

        Regulations == Safety.

        I'm not sure in the Airport and Taxi's are unions, but that would explain all of this. This is how unions operate, in groups, again if one or both are unions.

        In this case it isn't about Safety, it is about losing money.

        • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @06:38AM (#44433047)

          Regulations == Safety.

          I'm not sure in the Airport and Taxi's are unions, but that would explain all of this. This is how unions operate, in groups, again if one or both are unions.

          In this case it isn't about Safety, it is about losing money.

          This is also how companies operate. In my town, union is a 4-letter word, but any time private transportation companies are involved, they collude to keep out newcomers.

          • Re:Well (Score:4, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:03AM (#44433923)

            > In my town, union is a 4-letter word
            unon? unyn?

          • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:03AM (#44433933) Homepage
            That's because, for all practical purposes, unions are corporations who supply labor by (usually exclusive) contract. The same incentives to collude exist for them as for any other company. If you don't accept their contract on their terms, every other union will oppose you and impede business.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shavano (2541114)

          No, there are several competing taxi services and any company that wants to start a taxi company can start a service. I don't know about SF in particular but in some cities there are many independent operators as well. What they all have in common is that they work within the existing regulations according to a common set of rules. Those rules were put in place to make the competition fair and to protect customers.

          Now these new companies are coming in and saying essentially, "The rules don't apply to us

          • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rot26 (240034) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:14AM (#44434039) Homepage Journal
            any company that wants to start a taxi company can start a service

            You're really naive. Why don't you start Shavano's Taxi in NYC? Think you can? Taxi service is highly regulated everywhere. The prices are set by the local authorities, who have the ability to deny licensing to anybody they want to. It's a rigged game.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by haystor (102186)

              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 $360

            • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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 TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:51AM (#44433783)

            This exactly demonstrates corrupt government in action

            FTFY. Not all government action is a scam perpetrated by corrupt scumbags. This may be hard to believe in Detroit, but there are actually towns in the U.S. where the city government actually works FOR the people, and isn't just populated by thieves and their friends and relatives.

          • by pla (258480)

            In fairness, the scam doesn't come from the taxi companies themselves. Make no mistake, they gladly take advantage of the government imposed restriction of competition, but in some regards they count as victims here just as much as the rest of us.

            The real criminals here? In NYC (which has pretty solid published numbers), guess who sells those licenses to operate 13,237 cabs at a million bucks a pop? That literally comes out to NYC pulling in slightly more than my entire state's budget, just to keep cab f

        • It is extortion, and here's where they are playing with fire -- they don't enjoy qualified immunity regarding the arrests like the police do, so as soon as someone beats one of these "citations", then the airport and the individual are liable for damages in a lawsuit by the falsely accused person.
      • Re:Well (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tailhook (98486) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @04:20AM (#44432529)

        OTOH, regulations can be used for evil, to lock out competition and fix prices for example.

        The taxi drivers assert that this is a safety matter. They claim that without well regulated taxi service people are going to get hurt riding in cars driven by who knows whom.

        I honestly can't say which of either taxi drivers or random ride share people are a greater threat. I just know the GP wasn't wrong pointing out that this brand new 'outrage' has its basis in regulation, whether the little statist neck beards around here like it or not.

        • The taxi drivers assert that this is a safety matter.

          They are correct - it is a matter of keeping their jobs safe.

        • by eth1 (94901)

          OTOH, regulations can be used for evil, to lock out competition and fix prices for example.

          The taxi drivers assert that this is a safety matter. They claim that without well regulated taxi service people are going to get hurt riding in cars driven by who knows whom.

          I honestly can't say which of either taxi drivers or random ride share people are a greater threat. I just know the GP wasn't wrong pointing out that this brand new 'outrage' has its basis in regulation, whether the little statist neck beards around here like it or not.

          Well, maybe our licensing standards for drivers are too low. Likewise for vehicle maintenance standards. IMO, if they're too dangerous of a driver/car to have a passenger with them, I don't want them on the road with me AT ALL. So lets fix our lax standards for everyone, and this will be a non-issue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bravoc (771258)

        "regulations prohibit engine destroying additives being added to fuel"

        Um..... no: http://www.cycleworld.com/2013/07/05/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ethanol-fuel-and-your-motorcycle [cycleworld.com]

      • You declared it.

        You should have said
        Regulations == Safety.

        Not in Pascal.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:58AM (#44432221)

      Regulations = safety... right?

      In most of Europe yes; the regulations are there in order to improve people's lives and especially safety. It is true that, in some places, people are able to change the regulations for their own profit or in ways that interfere with business. That is a symptom of failing democracy not that regulations are always bad. Your first priority must be to change your politicians. After that; once you have politicians who are trying to limit the regulations to the ones that actually matter, then is the time to start reducing the regulation which is getting in your way for no benefit.

      Very often, the alternative to regulations which make it clear what needs to be done and what is just an optional extra is lawsuits, which are even more costly.

    • 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. ^_-

  • Sharing is evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:25AM (#44432061) Journal

    The entertainment industry says so. It seems only reasonable to see others take up the cause. Parents who tell kids to share their toys should be arrested also. It's killing the Toys R us franchise.

    • Re:Sharing is evil (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pthisis (27352) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:58AM (#44432225) Homepage Journal

      These aren't shares in that sense. While the donations they suggest are technically not mandatory, if you don't pay them then you're cut out of the system quickly. They're for-profit companies running something closer to a limo service than what anyone would mean by "rideshare". Which is fine with me, the taxi monopolies are ludicrous. But it's not like they're arresting people for carpooling or slugging or something.

    • Outlaw corporations! They issue shares!

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Parents who tell kids to share their toys should be arrested also. It's killing the Toys R us franchise.

      Of course! The only shares nobody is arrested when they got busted are the ones used by Wall Street.

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:26AM (#44432069)
    Arresting someone for what amounts to a civil offense seems like government power overreach to me, otherwise known as fascism.
    • Arresting someone for what amounts to a civil offense seems like government power overreach to me, otherwise known as fascism.

      They are being arrested for being stupid, which is (or should be) a criminal offense. This is nothing new. The SFO Airport Gestapo has always watched for any money changing hands at the curb. You just need to pay the driver before you get to airport.

  • by crossmr (957846) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:28AM (#44432085) Journal

    Is picking someone up at the airport an indictable offense?
    reason #8732 not to fly to the US...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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?

      • 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 OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:54AM (#44432433)

      Is picking someone up at the airport an indictable offense?

      Depends upon the following:
      - The speed at which you approach
      - Where you park
      - Whom the person is
      - What your intent is
      - What you're carrying in the boot of your car
      - Whether your car is correctly registered and insured
      - Whether the NSA has you, your grandmother, your housemate or your neighbour on a watch list
      But apart from that, land of the free .. home of the brave.

    • 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 assemblerex (1275164) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:31AM (#44432097)
    Meanwhile the world evolves and the dinosaurs think that by roaring louder they will divert the extinction that is free economy.
    • What is that "free economy" you talk about and where does it exist? It's kinda intriguing, I think we should try it some day.

  • What. (Score:5, Funny)

    by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:33AM (#44432103) Homepage

    I just read the summary several times, and the article twice, and I still have no idea what the hell people are getting arrested for...

    But I get the feeling that if someone explains it to me, it'll only lead to me yelling "WHAT THE FUCK, AMERICA?!" and I already have a headache, so I would rather just remain ignorant this one time...

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So from now on, there will only be one person in each car in the US?

      • Re:What. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @09:27AM (#44434189)
        Except that they are not charging the drivers with operating an illegal taxi service (or any of the slightly different similar possible charges). They are charging the drivers with trespassing. Which means that this is merely the airport trying to get a cut of the money, rather than anything to do with any of the excuses used to justify the regulation of taxis.
    • Your headache can go away. It's just all about taxi drivers not liking pink mustaches: http://www.businessinsider.com/lyft-ride-sharing-john-zimmer-2012-9 [businessinsider.com]

      Meet Lyft, A Startup Trying To Change San Francisco's Decades-Old Transportation System

      n San Francisco, a hotbed of transportation innovation from ferries to cable cars to high-speed rail, the latest way to get around is sporting a giant, pink, fluffy mustache. If you see a car with that hood decoration, you're looking at a driver for Lyft, a new app from a startup called Zimride that lets you order a car ride from one point to another on demand. Instead of working like Uber, a similar service for professional limo drivers, Lyft has more of a community aspect, focusing on regular car owners who want to help their friends and meet new people.

    • 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).

      • How a passenger arrives at the airport - by bicycle, by train , by rideshare or by stork - is simply none of their business as long as it is not disruptive. From the airport's perspective, there is no difference between a taxi and a rideshare, so claiming that the rideshare is "trespassing" is absurd.

        Of course, the regulatory capture by taxi companies is the real, underlying issue here. There is no reason to restrict who can take another person in their car; this is an arrangement for services between conse

    • 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.

  • Are the cars marked or painted with the company names and/or logos? If they are just plain cars, how are the airport police identifying these cars as belonging to a Rideshare service, as opposed to private individuals picking up or dropping off a friend?
  • 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 BestNicksRTaken (582194) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @03:20AM (#44432309)

    I've got to say SFO is consistently the most hostile airport I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of them.

    But this just beggars belief and basically boils down to taxi drivers wanting a monopoly and "somehow" convincing the airport officials to back them.

    You can't do anything for free in the good old US-of-A, its bound to upset some corporation or other, and they're the ones with all the power, not the voters.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:27AM (#44433259) Homepage

    Because we are so much safer paying a taxi $55 for the ride to the hotel and then the expected $20 tip.

  • uh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @07:40AM (#44433317)

    The one time someone said to me: "I'm placing you under citizens arrest"
    My reply was "Go fuck yourself"
    and when the police showed up, it wasn't me that got carted off to jail.
    People need to learn about their rights.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @08:23AM (#44433577)

    Regulation certainly has important uses: it keeps your house from burning down, makes you safer in car accidents and ensures that your food is clean and properly prepared.

    But this is mostly self-protectionism by the taxi industry. Ride sharing is basically "accelerated friend making" for the purposes of carpooling. Any claim that it's unsafe because its unregulated is more or less bullocks. It's maybe a matter of service quality, but that should really a choice left made up to the customer, shouldn't it?

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