Dozens of taxi cabs circled Los Angeles City Hall this morning to protest against digital ride-share services Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar a day after the City of Los Angeles — siding with the cab companies — issued a cease-and-desist letter against the ride-share apps.
The taxi drivers from traditional companies like Yellow Cab, Bell Cab and Checker Cab — three of the nine cab companies authorized to serve L.A. — say the shared-ride services are unregulated and don’t meet the same safety and background checks as the more established taxi services.
The rally on wheels started shortly after 9 a.m., when the taxis began lining up in one lane of North Main Street. As the rallied continued, more cabs joined in, with the drivers honking their horns incessantly. Police officers worked to keep the cabs in one lane and used a public address system to tell drivers to stop using their horns unnecessarily. They wound up citing at least one cab driver.
By 9:30 a.m., the cabs were quieting down, and William Rouse, General Manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab, and representatives of other traditional taxi services began a news conference.
Rouse said that although Lyft, Uber and Sidecar act like taxicab services and fall within the city’s taxicab regulations, they aren’t regulated. The city, Rouse said, isn’t doing background checks or drug checks on their drivers, and is not inspecting their vehicles.
"When you get in one of these vehicles, it’s like putting your thumb out and hitch-hiking," Rouse said. "You don’t know who’s behind the wheel."
On Monday, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation sent letters to Uber, Sidecar and Lyft telling them to "cease and desist from picking up passengers" within the city.
All three companies operate with easy-to-use smartphone applications. All three were also fined last year by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Uber and Lyft reached agreements with the CPUC that they believe allow them to operate throughout the state.
On KPCC’s Air Talk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, said his company adheres to the CPUC rules and then some.
"We go even above and beyond what the regulations say and go even above and beyond what the taxi industry does in Los Angeles to make sure that the people you’re getting in the car with are safe to be in the car with," Kalanick said.
Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer issued a statement arguing that the operating agreement his company signed with the CPUC "clarifies that we are not a taxi and demonstrates that this is a state issue."
Lyft is in contact with the office of L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and has "received encouraging signs that the Mayor and his successor, Mayor-elect [Eric] Garcetti, recognize the value of our community and plan to work supportively with us moving forward to address the DOT's concerns," said Zimmer.
William Rouse and the other city-authorized cab companies argue that California law mandates that cities regulate taxi services, not the state commission. The L.A. City Council’s Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss creating rules for the ride-sharing services.