The City of Los Angeles is the latest to tell ride-sharing apps SideCar, Lyft and Uber that they are operating car services without a license and must cease and desist immediately.
The letters from the L.A. department of transportation appear to be in direct opposition with an agreement the companies struck with the state Public Utilities Commission, which gave them permission to operate while it attempts to address the larger regulatory question of whether they are car services or merely a new way for consumers to connect with one another and with taxi and limo services. CPUC actions supersede those of municipal regulators.
“The PUC set forth a stringent list of requirements in the settlement agreement, and we have complied with them,” an Uber spokesman said.
But Tom Drischler, Los Angeles’s taxi cab administrator, said the settlement agreement with the CPUC did not amount to a license to operate in Los Angeles. Further, he said, the CPUC only regulates car services, not taxi cabs. He said the city attorney had spoken to the CPUC directly about the matter.
“We’re primarily interested in public safety; we’re charged w code enforcement. We’ve been doing this for 20 to 30 years, and there are many people who operate like a taxi and do so without a permit,” said department of transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman. Unlike licensed cabs, gypsy cabs and the rides provided through mobile apps don’t have to guarantee access for the disabled or meet emissions standards, he said. While the ride services claim that they vet drivers carefully, Gillman said the city had seen no evidence to support those claims.
Lyft co-founder John Zimmer was optimistic that the parties would reach a compromise.
“As with innovations and movements before us, there will often be challenges and hurdles along the way,” Zimmer said.
“We are already in contact with the office of Mayor Villaraigosa, and have received encouraging signs that the Mayor and his successor, Mayor-elect Garcetti, recognize the value of our community and plan to work supportively with us moving forward to address the DOT’s concerns,” Zimmer added.
Failure to comply with the cease-and-desist order is a misdemeanor, and drivers are subject to arrest and a 30-day impoundment of their vehicles.
Updated at 8 p.m. EDT after SocialTimes conducted a phone interview with the Los Angeles officials cited above.