Ride-sharing companies may lose 'bandit cab' stigma in California

Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:58pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Commercial ride-sharing services offered by moonlighting motorists but frowned on by licensed taxi drivers and some cities as "bandit" cab operations would gain new legitimacy in California under a plan proposed on Tuesday by state regulators.

The draft rules to govern companies that already operate under such names as Lyft, SideCar and Uber, allowing passengers to electronically hail rides through smartphone applications, were unveiled by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as taxi drivers continued to lobby against them.

The PUC, based in San Francisco, is set to vote on the guidelines as early as its September 5 meeting.

Taxi drivers registered their disapproval by staging a noisy demonstration against the ride-sharing services on Tuesday, circling San Francisco City Hall in their cabs.

Meanwhile, the head of the cabbies' national trade group, the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association, slammed the proposal as a blow to local control over traditional taxi-for-hire carriers.

San Francisco-based Lyft, SideCar and Uber, the three most well known of the ride-sharing services, hailed the draft guidelines, saying they already comply with several of the key rules laid out in the document.

Among the proposed regulations are requirements for ride-share operators to obtain a license with the PUC to do business in California, to submit their drivers to criminal background checks and to carry liability insurance of at least $1 million per incident.

The PUC's move to regulate commercial ride-sharing in the nation's most populous state comes as a number of major U.S. cities have imposed restrictions on such services.   Continued...

San Francisco taxi driver Joel Sanchez shows his opposition to Lyft, one of the ride sharing programs taxi drivers say is operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach