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Taxi Company Lobbies L.A. To Appeal Rideshare Rules

Taxi Company Lobbies L.A. To Appeal Rideshare Rules

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A lobbyist for a Los Angeles taxi company today urged city officials to join them in appealing new rules allowing phone-app- enabled rideshare companies such as UberX, SideCar and Lyft to operate in California.

``Your entire (taxi) franchise system is under attack,'' Dominick Rubalcava, an attorney and lobbyist for Yellow Cab, told the city's Taxicab Commission which oversees a franchise system that allows nine taxi companies to do business in Los Angeles.

The commission should support City Councilman Paul Koretz, who will ask his colleagues Friday to consider joining taxicab companies in appealing the state regulations, Rubalcava said.

Representatives of the taxi industry say they are at an unfair disadvantage because they must follow strict city laws, many aimed at protecting the public's safety, that rideshare services are flouting.

Opponents of the the regulations have until next Wednesday to submit their request to have the California Public Utilities Commission reconsider the new rules. This step is necessary to launch future legal appeals in court, commission officials said.

The state Public Utilities Commission last month signed off on regulation that classifies phone-app enabled rideshare services as ``transportation network companies.''

Such companies allow people in need of rides to use a downloadable smartphone app to make arrangements with those willing to drive them to their destinations, often for a fee.

Under the new rules, the rideshare companies must get a license from the PUC, require criminal background checks of drivers, create a driver training program, take up a ``zero-tolerance'' policy on drug and alcohol use, buy commercial liability insurance policy with a minimum $1 million coverage and do a 19-point car inspection.

Koretz, who introduced a motion last week asking that the city appeal the regulations, questioned the PUC's ability to enforce its own rules.

``They're not going to do anything to actually make (the requirements) happen, as a practical matter,'' he said, adding that ``it makes a lot more sense to have local control,'' he said.

He also questioned whether background checks will be thorough enough to protect the public's safety.

``When you have the first serial murder or rapist ... they're going to look back and say the PUC screwed this up and the city screwed this up,'' he said.

Tom Drischler, administrator for the city's taxicab franchise system, told the taxicab commission today the state's laws are unclear on whether drivers for rideshare companies will be required to get commercial insurance, which cost between $5,000 and $7,000. Drivers for those companies might actually be free to purchase personal insurance instead, he said.

There are also no requirements on the age of vehicles, and the only enforcement measure in place for the ``zero-tolerance'' policy on drug and alcohol use is an online complaint board, he said.

The rideshare app companies are required to do criminal background checks, but do not need to take fingerprints of drivers, a step that is required under city rules, Drischler said.

It remains to be seen if Mayor Eric Garcetti, a supporter of the app-enabled ridesharing services and the state's regulations, would endorse an appeal of the new rules.

``The mayor so far likes the idea'' of the rideshare services, Koretz said. ``I think he likes the high-tech elements to it that are the positive. I don't think he's given a look at the liability of the dangers that are present.''

Mayoral spokeswoman Vicki Curry said they will be monitoring the City Council's discussion of the potential appeal.

The mayor is also working to address the taxi industry's concerns, she said. 

 

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