Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber are internet-based, taxi-alternative services that connect people trying to get somewhere with a car and driver. The California Public Utilities Commission has been studying these services and how to regulate them and could issue its latest decisions on Tuesday.
The ride-sharing services have become popular with people such as Bex Dumler of Santa Monica. She and her husband share one car and don’t want another. So when she’s meeting friends , running errands, or wants to have a couple of drinks on a night out, instead of calling a cab, she often relies on Uber.
"I don't have cab numbers in my phone," says Dumler, "so I pull up the [Uber] app. I can see the cars that are close to me, and they have my credit card, so it’s all done on my phone."
Dumler says she’s argued with traditional cab drivers who’ve told her she could use a credit card, but then demanded cash once they reached her destination. That’s just one reason she finds Uber and similar services easier to use than regular taxis.
A key question is: are Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar themselves taxi services with an internet twist? Veteran L.A. Yellow Cab driver Aydin Kavak thinks so.
"They’re using meters," Kavak says. "Not meters that we have in the taxicab, but meters through the smartphone, which makes them a taxicab."
Kavak says that means they should register with the City of Los Angeles and meet standards on cab safety and driver background checks. The L.A. Department of Transportation agreed. But the state Public Utilities Commission, which fined Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar last year, reached agreements with the three companies allowing them to operate while the Commission decides how to regulate them, and whether their services fall under the Commission's jurisdiction.