Dennis Romero, at the LA Weekly’s The Informer blog:
How can ride-app outfits like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar operate in a town with strict rules about how and where taxis can do business?
It’s a question we’ve been asking here at L.A. Weekly world headquarters. And Los Angeles Department of Transportation taxicab administrator Thomas Drischler this week came up with an answer.
Namely, they can’t:
In a cease-and-desist letter sent to those three companies, Drischler accused them of … “operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service in the City of Los Angeles. In the interest of public safety, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are hereby directed to cease and desist from picking up passengers within the City of Los Angeles.”
This sucks. Uber and its ilk are hugely useful, especially in driving-centric cities like LA. On the other hand, I understand the concerns with these services – driver oversight may not be sufficient, and definitely isn’t sufficiently regulated to provide users with confidence. However, the solution to this is not a cease-and-desist that prevents consumers from making use of a valuable service – it’s updating the law to ensure that these innovative companies are safe. If the LA government is serious about serving its citizens, rather than merely protecting incumbent firms, it’ll follow through to do just that.
I’m not optimistic, exactly, but for whatever reason this industry seems to get people worked up enough to actually complain to their representatives (see DC’s reluctant reversals on Uber and food trucks) – so maybe, just maybe, it’ll all work out. As an occasional LA visitor I’m certainly hoping it does.