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Transportation Earth Government

California Becomes First State In Nation To Regulate Ride-Sharing 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-ride dept.
Virtucon writes "Ride Sharing Services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar received a big boost today when the California Public Utilities Commission approved rules that would allow them to continue to operate as long as they followed a few rules. This makes California the first state to adopt such rules and is expected to preempt local governments who are trying to clamp down on these services and regulate them like local taxi companies."
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California Becomes First State In Nation To Regulate Ride-Sharing

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  • by immaterial (1520413) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:10PM (#44898325)
    I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?
    • by erice (13380) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:26PM (#44898403) Homepage

      I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?

      A taxi takes you where you want to go. A ride share takes you where you want to go providing it isn't too far out of the way from where the driver was going anyway. Think of it more like paid hitch hiking. That's the idea as Lyft presented to New Tech Meetup a few months ago.

      It gets less clear when drivers use the service to make trips they would not otherwise have done, just to collect the fare. As I understand it, "professionals" doing just that for trips to and from SFO.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:48PM (#44898539)

        I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?

        ...A ride share takes you where you want to go providing it isn't too far out of the way from where the driver was going anyway...

        .

        No. I've used Lyft on multiple occasions, and every single time it was exactly like a taxi--"Take me to location X". There was no waiting around for someone travelling a similar route or anything along those lines.

        What I actually really like about it is the rating system. Lyft provides a "suggested donation" for the traveler. The traveler can pay as much as they want (with a minimum of $5, IIRC), but Lyft tracks the value as a % of the suggested donation (which is *always* less than the cost of a taxi). Lyft drivers, then, have the ability to look up passengers that average, say, minimum 80% of the suggested donation. So if you're continually paying very little, you're going to quickly find yourself out of a ride. And on the flip side, travelers get to rate the driver--how friendly were they, how clean was their car, etc. And living in Chicago, I can tell you that I have taken far more filthy taxi rides with complete asshole drivers (who refuse to take the route I tell them) than I care to count. So while I haven't used the other services, I have nothing but good things to say about Lyft.

        • And this, in a nutshell, is what separates the ride-sharing services from taxis.

          What it really does, in my opinon, is provide a much-needed reset for regulations upon ride-for-hire services that were once monopolized by cabs. As with any longstanding sets of regulations, taxicab regulations have long been past due for the whole system to be stripped down and rewritten from the ground up.

      • by joocemann (1273720) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:55PM (#44898579)

        So what you're saying is that they are using a loophole by relying on their drivers to lie about what they were doing. A lawyer might even argue that, of course, the driver was going in that direction because money was waiting for them when they arrive! How keen!

        Pffft. Why not just deregulate taxi driving and be honest about it. I know Lyft drivers. They are *not* picking people up randomly. They treat it as a job and appreciate the income.

        • by Bartles (1198017)

          Pffft. Why not just deregulate taxi driving and be honest about it. I know Lyft drivers. They are *not* picking people up randomly. They treat it as a job and appreciate the income.

          Because, silly. According to the article, companies receive a "big boost" when government begins to regulate their industry. Deregulation of taxi driving would obviously negate the, "big boost" they get from regulation. Considering how heavily regulated taxi drivers are, the boost must be gigantic.

      • by fnj (64210) on Friday September 20, 2013 @05:02AM (#44900483)

        A taxi takes you where you want to go. A ride share takes you where you want to go providing it isn't too far out of the way from where the driver was going anyway. Think of it more like paid hitch hiking. That's the idea as Lyft presented to New Tech Meetup a few months ago.

        So in other words:

        (1) a taxi takes you where you want to go for money within limits (i.e., no taxi is likely to take you from Maine to Tierra del Fuego, and you can't always rely on them picking up and discharging in certain neighborhoods).

        (2) a ride share takes you where you want to go for money within limits.

        Yet you evidently somehow see a difference between the two fundamental enough to justify classifying (and regulating or not) them differently [shakes head in bafflement and wonder]. What I see is some people attempting to work around onerous over-regulation of taxis and financial burdens on same which they must pass on to customers. I can't imagine why anyone would object to the opportunity they are attempting to provide to both drivers and riders, but the method seems foredoomed because of existing taxi regulations. I do understand that it is difficult to attack those regulations because they arise locally in thousands of separate jurisdictions. It's like a lot of manifestations of runaway government. I don't see how to effectively control it without what ... overthrowing the entire system ... in favor of what?

        Oh, and a vanishingly small percentage of drivers demand money to give a lift to a hitchhiker. That one is just a pure red herring.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:28PM (#44898427) Homepage

      How is it not a taxi service?

      Legally the difference is that taxi cabs can be hailed on the street. No other type of private transportation (limos, airport shuttles, ridesharing, etc.) can be hired this way -- they require a separate, prior arrangement.

      • I see. Makes sense, in its way. Are the other services you mentioned (limos and shuttles) already regulated in some way? I would expect so, so it seems like they should just expand the current definitions to apply to for-profit "ride sharing." I guess the ad-hoc nature of these arrangements requires something special.
      • by icebike (68054)

        A separate prior agreement that you can make via a phone call while chatting with the driver.

        If Taxi's want to compete, let them build a rating system like Lyft or Uber.
        Put a QR code on their doors people can find out about the surly bastard driving and the condition they keep the vehicle in.

        There are apps for this in the taxi world, mytaxi is a common one. TaxiMagic is another.
        mytaxi-Driver skips the cab company and goes direct to the cabbie, and its the equivalent of a street hail.
        With some of these apps

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Taxis also don't get to pick and choose their fares...if they stop to pick someone up, they have to take them wherever they're going. These sharing services allow drivers to screen based on destination, so people heading to bad neighborhoods could be SOL.

    • by TheRealDevTrash (2849653) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:33PM (#44898449)
      Hipsters don't take taxis.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?

      Because they haven't paid the Californian govt for a license.

      There may also be liability issues. Certainly in Oz if you paid for a "private" car insurance policy the policy may be declared null and void if you're using the car for commercial purposes.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It's called ride sharing to try and make people think it's about some green service instead of noticing that it's really just another type of taxi.

    • The difference is that a ride sharing program has a driver who is not licensed to drive taxis or limos, is not properly insured, and is not required to maintain their car. You're entirely correct that these ride sharing programs are nothing but an end-run around the regulations for taxis and limos. We need to regulate them for the exact same reasons we need to regulate taxis.
      • We need to regulate them for the exact same reasons we need to regulate taxis.

        To maintain the taxi companies' profits.

    • The real question is... why, if it is a taxi service, is it treated any differently? Taxis rip you off.. I've been ripped off by Taxi drivers that are highly regulated in NYC and then, less than 20 hours later treated excellently in a completely unregulated taxi in Africa.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?"

      With a taxi, the driver drives you to a destination _you_ want to go to, for 8 or 10 hours a day.

      This service drives you to a destination the driver wants to go to, once or twice a day.

    • by dkf (304284)

      I must be missing something about this concept. If you're getting paid (with a net profit) to drive people around, why is it called ride sharing? How is it not a taxi service?

      They're probably trying to work around some regulations. In the UK it's pretty clear: if it's done for hire, it's one of two types of taxi. A "hackney carriage" is what most people think of as a taxi: it's one you can hail in the street. There's also a "private hire" taxi, where you have to have some sort of prior arrangement before being picked up; it covers a whole range of options (up to a maximum size of vehicle and excluding a few more highly regulated categories) such as limousines and dial-a-rides. I

    • It is a taxi service. They're calling it something else so it doesn't get strangled by the cartel-based rigid regulation of taxis.

      • It is a taxi service. They're calling it something else so it doesn't get strangled by the cartel-based rigid regulation of taxis.

        Nope. They are using a different set of rules to run their business because of the cartel-based rigid regulation of taxis. This is made possible by the use of these little wireless pocket computers people carry in their pockets that allow everybody to get online no matter where they are anymore. Other vehicles such as towncars, limos, airport shuttles, and rideshares have been around for quite some time and are not taxis and operate under a different set of rules. These new services are operating under thos

    • Because it's the exciting new sharing economy, don't you know. I recommend googling Tom Slee and read a couple of his articles on the topic.

    • It isn't a taxi service because taxi service is an over regulated cartel in most cities, and it is almost impossible to enter the market.

      This is an example of good free market forces at work. We have an over paid, over regulated monopoly supported by by government regulation finally get some competition. Hopefully these new guys will be able to stay lean and mean.

      And I'm a commie socialist from Canada.

  • by hguorbray (967940) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:26PM (#44898401)
    considering that a medallion in San Francisco can cost upwards of $200k

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/flag-might-drop-on-more-taxi-medallions/Content?oid=2193759

    -I'm just sayin'
    • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:40PM (#44898493)

      The taxi services were enjoying the monopoly and have a share of the blame too. It is not as if they were trying to fight the medallion system. I personally cant wait for the medallion system to collapse, or prices to plummet.

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        google returns 5 pages of taxi services in San Francisco, that is one shitty monopoly, or maybe you do not understand that word too well

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:37PM (#44898767)

          The SFMTA reports that there are only twenty-nine taxi companies that legally operate in San Francisco. Those 29 taxi companies operate a total of 1,707 cabs. (One medallion allows one cab to be operated.)
          I can tell you from hard, long experience that this is far too few cabs for the city.

          Data source, straight from the horse's mouth: http://www.sfmta.com/services/taxi-industry/medallions/medallion-holders

          There are currently 1,430 people waiting to acquire a taxi medallion. http://www.sfmta.com/services/taxi-industry/medallions/waiting-list

          It is said that one is often on the waiting list for ten years. In order to acquire a medallion, you have to meet a boatload of somewhat reasonable requirements, then be able to pony up $300k. From that $300k, the city takes $100k, and the remainder is given to the previous medallion holder.

          As of this moment, the city does *not* create new taxi medallions. This is the very definition of "lucrative, performance insensitive monopoly".

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            In Anchorage, the only way to create new medallions is to have the current holders vote to create them. The city started issuing some, and they were sued for illegal seizure by diminishing the value of the existing ones without compensation. The courts ordered that the city must buy-back existing medallions at market prrices (About $100,000) before they could issue new ones. So no new taxis. Most are owned by out-of-state investors, and the original idea of owner-operator is the rare exception (and the
        • google returns 5 pages of taxi services in San Francisco, that is one shitty monopoly, or maybe you do not understand that word too well

          The monopoly is the single organization authorized to sell taxi medallions: The City of San Francisco.

        • by Zenin (266666) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:06AM (#44899741) Homepage

          In San Francisco "taxi services" do not own medallions generally, individual drivers do. This is a distinction that matters a lot.

          It means that a customer can call a taxi service and request a cab...and the service will put the call out on the air...and no cabs will care to pick it up (bad neighborhood, too out of the way, whatever). The service can't hold the drivers accountable (the drivers own the medallions) and the customer just gets to stand on the corner forever at times...completely unable to get a cab from any of the "5 pages" of taxi services (since they're all asking largely the same pool of medallion-carrying drivers). -The "services" get kick backs from the drivers for routing them calls, that's how they make money: The drivers are their customers, not the passengers.

          And...Most drivers however, aren't even medallion holders. I know, I just said they were, but they're not. Drivers with medallions rent their medallions out to other drivers (thus ensuring the expensive medallion is making money 24/7 for the owner). Those sub-sub-contracted drivers are most of the actual drivers in the city.

          The actual owner is required to "drive" some number of hours each week to maintain the medallion. But they're lazy...they own a medallion (read: free money), so why should they actually work? So they do their hours by sitting in the taxi waiting line at the airports, watching YouTube on their phones.

          DOZENS of them...all in a line for ages at the airports...transporting no one...for hours at a time. Meanwhile the actual CITY of San Francisco suffers a severe lack of taxi service.

          -----

          And no one is accountable. Not the "taxi services" (they can't fire or refuse to "hire" a given cab). Not the medallion holders (who largely see their medallion as a free-ride and so long as the sub-contracted driver pays their rent who cares). And definitely not the consumers (who have no ability to select or rate drivers...and it wouldn't matter if they could because again, most drivers aren't medallion owners and the owners don't give a damn).

          And it's been this completely fucked up for at least half a century, probably longer.

          The medallion system is completely indefensible.

          • by gottabeme (590848)

            Why do the medallion holders sit at the airport to watch YouTube? Couldn't they do that anywhere in the city, like next to a coffee shop or overlooking the bay?

            • by Zenin (266666)

              If they were anywhere else they'd get hailed (almost instantly) and have to drive. And they can't just turn the service light off and not take riders, they wouldn't be "working".

      • by Thomasje (709120) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:48PM (#44898801)
        Don't hold your breath waiting for prices to plummet when taxis are deregulated. This has already been tried in the Netherlands, and the result was that prices went up, not down, and service got worse, not better, capitalist dogma notwithstanding.
        The problem is that taxi drivers need to make a certain amount of money to pay their cost of living, and if the number of cabs goes up while the number of passengers doesn't, they end up spending more time waiting for fares, and less time actually driving. And they can't just hop off to a second job while they are waiting. So, they have to *increase* their rates in order to make up for their reduced number of trips, so taking a cab becomes more expensive, and they will tend to refuse short trips, trying to hold out for the more profitable longer ones, so taxi availability gets worse.
        • by Truth_Quark (219407) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:52AM (#44899547) Journal
          On the other hand, it worked quite well in Wellington, New Zealand.
    • by tlambert (566799) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:46PM (#44898525)

      considering that a medallion in San Francisco can cost upwards of $200k

      http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/flag-might-drop-on-more-taxi-medallions/Content?oid=2193759 [sfexaminer.com]

      -I'm just sayin'

      Only if they damn well show up when I call them, rather than taking nearby, more lucrative fares when they get flagged down on their way to me. If their dispatcher agrees on their behalf that they will show up, they need to damn well show up.

      If they don't show I, I really don't give a flying what they paid for their medallion (and most Taxi drivers in SF are contract workers, with the medallion being owned by the taxi company; the driver is just an employee with no benefits who has to follow radio orders).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by joocemann (1273720)

        Personal XP here. SF cabs will skip you for the fare they just noticed on the street. Uber (a rideshare company) will be there waiting for you at least 2 minutes before you asked for them. No, I don't own stock in Uber -- but I wish I did. They just bought 2500 driverless cars from google (approved by DOT) for their fleet.

        • by moosehooey (953907) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:08PM (#44898661)

          ...about the future. Google isn't selling any driverless cars.

      • by Zenin (266666)

        If they don't show I, I really don't give a flying what they paid for their medallion (and most Taxi drivers in SF are contract workers, with the medallion being owned by the taxi company; the driver is just an employee with no benefits who has to follow radio orders).

        That's just it, in SF the medallions are not owned by the taxi company. They're privately owned. Sure, most of the drivers are contracted...but they are contracted to the medallion owners (individually), not the taxi companies. Or more corr

  • by mendax (114116) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:57PM (#44898605)

    A very conservative friend seems to think I'm rather liberal when I think regulation is a good idea sometimes. Regulation *is* quite often a good idea when history has amply demonstrated that a business model cannot operate in a legitimate or non-abusive manner without it. Classic examples of this are banks and the the Wall Street financial market as well as the taxi business in places like San Francisco and New York, automobile manufacturing, trucking companies, and the labor markets. Great evils of various kinds have occurred when these things were not regulated. But sometimes overregulation creates problems. A great example is the airline industry. At one time, the airlines were highly regulated. Regardless of who you flew with, the fare would be the same for the same route and they were high. Airline travel in those days was quite expensive. Since airlines couldn't attract customers using fares, they differentiated themselves by offering great service (even in "cattle" class), better planes, etc. For example, when was the last time that any of you flew a Boeing 747 on a domestic flight that wasn't a leg of an international flight? In the 1970's, wide-bodied planes were common on the higher trafficked domestic flights. These days, airline service is awful but relatively inexpensive.

    So I ask the question: Does ride-sharing really need to be regulated beyond a requirement that the vehicles and drivers have proper insurance? Is it anything like the wild west of unregulated taxi services in places like New York and San Francisco that created chaos?

    • by dkf (304284)

      Does ride-sharing really need to be regulated beyond a requirement that the vehicles and drivers have proper insurance?

      Is it a taxi service — the taking of a person to a place they nominate in return for a fee — or not? If it is, there is a need for some regulation. An example of the kind of reasonable regulation is to require that nobody with a conviction for a sex crime should be able to be a taxi driver. Having to have a particular level of insurance (or better) is another reasonable regulation. It's all about ensuring that the services that are there are not actively hazardous for people to use.

      The problem w

  • A Few Rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimbrooking (1909170) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:57PM (#44898845)
    The rules in the article are as follows:

    "Regulators would require drivers to undergo criminal background checks, receive driver training, follow a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol and carry insurance policies with a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage."

    That seems like some pretty heavy lifting that will probably dissuade lots of otherwise good-natured and willing drivers, no?
    • by fafalone (633739)
      Seems like every job these days conducts a criminal background check. But what that actually means varies widely. Some jobs will of course bar anyone with any felony whatsoever, but the proposed regulations are somewhat more reasonable:
      "Any felony criminal conviction within seven years prior to the date of the background check for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, a violent crime or act of terror, a sexual offense, a crime involving property
  • Ride sharing is an important social innovation for moving to a low carbon emission society.
    The global warming benefit of ride sharing is when you raise the number of people riding in a conventional commuter automobile less CO2 is emitted per passenger mile. The financial aspect of ride sharing is substantial amounts of personal cash are released when cars are not driven.

    I live in California and I have seen that free ride sharing services like 511.org mostly do not work. There are many reasons why these ride

  • by eepok (545733) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:39AM (#44899669) Homepage

    Rideshare is a federally recognized term that encompasses carpool, vanpool, train, bus, and even bike/walk transportation. The creator of Lyft (John Zimmer) knows this very well as he created a fairly-well-adopted ride-matching website called "Zimride".

    Zimride doesn't make too much money, though, so he sold it to Enterprise (the car rental company who also is in the carshare and vanpool markets) and created Lyft. Along with other similar decentralized taxi services, he is trying to brand their business models as "rideshare" to equate them with more sustainable practices and receive subsequent leniency in various markets and even public funding.

    If you want to see what genuine real-time rideshare is, check out Carma (formerly "Avego"). This is a carpool-facilitating program that makes sure that the driver doesn't make a profit off the shared ride (per State Department mileage reimbursement rates).

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