OC to consider deregulating taxi industry to level playing field with Uber

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While Los Angeles city leaders and state lawmakers are calling for tighter regulations for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, there’s talk in Orange County about doing the opposite: deregulating the taxicab industry.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer on Monday asked the county’s transportation authority to find ways to relax rules and fees for taxicab companies and drivers.

Each city would have to vote independently on specifics. 

“Instead of allowing the legislature to regulate Uber, the solution is to deregulate the entire market and make it a level playing field so we don’t over burden the taxi industry,” he said during the regular meeting of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

The O.C. Transportation Authority runs the taxi regulating program on behalf of an association of Orange County cities and the county that has the regulatory power over taxis.

In the last year, the number of taxi permits has fallen by 16 percent, according to a 2015-16 budget document from the O.C. Transportation Authority released in May. “The proliferation of ride-sharing services like UBER is clearly the primary reason,” it states.

Spitzer said he supported maintaining minimum safeguards but hoped to see if reducing fees, changing the county’s medallion program or  amending other regulations would create more competition.

San Diego voted in 2014 to do the same. The Union-Tribune reported in September the deregulated medallion program was off to a slow start. 

Staff with the OCTA is expected to bring a report to the board about what options Orange County has if it chooses to deregulate the taxi industry.

There are 26 taxicab companies permitted in Orange County with more than 900 drivers.

Next month, the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates private transportation in California, will take up a recommendation that would require ride-hailing companies to fingerprint drivers that offer rides to unaccompanied minors.

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