Official taxi vehicle seal in Los Angeles, Oct. 4, 2011. By KennethHan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Official taxi vehicle seal in Los Angeles, Oct. 4, 2011. Photo via  KennethHan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Official taxi vehicle seal in Los Angeles, Oct. 4, 2011. Photo via  KennethHan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Taxi drivers in Los Angeles would be required to use electronic hailing apps to compete with newer ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, under a proposal to be considered next month by the Taxicab Commission.

The commission will decide in January whether to form a working group to explore rules requiring taxicabs to subscribe to “e-hail technology” certified by the city. According to the proposal, such technology already exists, but “less than half of the city’s taxi drivers actually use it.”

The office of Mayor Eric Garcetti instructed the commission three months ago to “take all steps necessary to basically level the playing field” between traditional taxicabs and ride-share companies that use smartphone apps to connect drivers to riders, Taxicab Commission President Eric Speigelman said at a board meeting Thursday.

He said discussions about the future of taxicab regulations led to the idea to “start getting onto an e-hail world.”

Garcetti’s office will choose members of the working group, which would recommend regulations that apply to existing e-hail services such as Curb and Flywheel, which cater to the traditional taxi industry, as well as applications already being used by some taxicab companies, Spiegelman said.

These e-hail companies would need to comply with whatever certification requirements the City Council and the mayor decide on after getting recommendations from the working group, he said.

Because Los Angeles officials began discussing the e-hail app requirement, similar proposals have cropped up in cities such as Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

City officials contend e-hail regulations are needed to give taxicabs — which must comply with strict city regulations — an ability to compete ride- share companies that have “superior technology” and benefit from “lighter regulation.”

Ride-share companies are regulated by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, which recently signed off on a set of rules for the phone-app- enabled rideshare services, including criminal backgrounds, a driver training program and commercial liability insurance policy.

Commissioner Boris Gorbis said of the proposed e-hail regulation “appears to be an excellent idea to move forward, but it’s by no means a panacea for the problems that exist when we have two separate regulatory schemes in this city, one essentially a very dictatorial — I would even say Stalinist — form of regulating taxicabs, and the free-for-all type of brokerage system under which the Uber and Lyft drivers operate.”

Traditional taxi drivers say the new ride-sharing companies are operating outside the city’s regulatory system as “bandit cabs” and are unsafe because of weak regulation.

Ride-sharing companies are increasingly coming under fire by local jurisdictions.

In Los Angeles County, District Attorney Jackie Lacey sued Uber last week, alleging the company makes false or misleading statements about the quality of the background checks it conducts on its drivers and does not have the authorization it requires to be operating at airports.

—City News Service

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