Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lyft and Sidecar Customers and Drivers Are Not Insured ...

is what hack-reporter Rachel Swan told me was going to be in her piece on the app industry vs the cab industry. This was supposed to be a balanced article that showed cab company corruption going against the dangers of using illegal and uninsured taxi services.

I also pressed her to warn the drivers and customers of Lyft and Sidecar that the "terms" to which they agreed when they downloaded the apps included signing away their rights to sue and agreeing to come to the defense of the app companies (at the customer's expense) in case the companies were sued for negligence.

Needless to say, Rachel did neither. Instead of warning the public about the possible dangers of riding in uninsured vehicles, she passed on an advertising blurb dressed as a fact by Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul claiming that a they had done a study showing that Sidecar passengers "felt safer" then they would have riding in a taxicab. "Felt safer!" Rachel wrote this as if it proved that they were safer. And, why would Sunil bother to do a study when he has Rachel Swan ready to make every bit of garbage that comes out of his mouth sound like the word of God?

Rachel also engaged in the usual hatchet job that appears to be a right of passage for wanna be journalists in San Francisco. She included all the bad stuff about the cab industry and treated the CEO's of Lyft, Sidecar and Uber as if they were a combination of Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Charlemagne instead of developers of illegal, taxi apps. The tone of her prose would go very well with an orientation video for new hires at Sidecar U.

As it turns out I'm not the first to be jobbed by this babe. This is from a comment to Sweet Rachel's purple post:

@healied2 "This writer is well known by lefties in the East Bay for doing exactly what you describe, and also for the fact that she actually has turned against her very informants who bring a story to her.  She did this in her East Bay article, titled Obama Drama. She was brought a story about how the official Obama campaign folks were actually doing things all over California to jeopardize that campaign, and she never followed direct leads she was given that would've proven that point. Instead, she wrote a glowing story about the official campaign folks and turned a negative light on the most radical dedicated workers in that campaign. If anyone is ever approached by her for a story- stay away. "

I have to drive my cab tonight so I'll cut it short but I'll leave you with a few things from Twitter and Yelp that were sent to me by Athan Rebelos.

In the first one, Danielle V. should clearly have read Lyft's "terms" before agreeing to use the service (the "terms" that I asked Sweet Rachel to warn the public against). These "terms" are almost impossible to find on the Lyft and Sidecar websites. Rachel couldn't find them herself and had to call me up and ask me where they were (way at the bottom in very small print). They print out to over 20 pages at 12pt type.  I don't know how anybody could read the "terms" on a smart phone. These are some of the limitations in question:

Limitation of Liability
Talk about the warmth of community, no?

Friday, March 22, 2013

MTA Board Okays Electronic Taxi Access

The SFMTA Board unanimously approved Electronic Taxi Access (ETA) which will lead to the development of a platform allowing smart phone apps to show all the available taxis in San Francisco on a single map.

Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin (photo), who introduced the measure, said that he thought ETA should have been implemented two years ago.

President John Lazar and Charles Rathbone of Luxor Cab along with Nate Dwiri and Bill Gillespie of Yellow Cab spoke against the measure as did a spokesman for Taxi Magic. They talked about the money that they had spent developing wonderful apps of their own which made a universal app unnecessary. Gillespie said that Yellow was working on a new advanced app that would let drivers talk directly to the customers.

Well ... I could talk to customers on Cabulous (now Flywheel) three years ago which is my way of pointing out that much of what these companies are doing is re-inventing the wheel. In any case, most of their innovations are beside the point. The creation of multiple apps from multiple companies merely exacerbates the problem of the customers having too many choices with no way of knowing what the best choice is.

ETA will allow the customers to find the closest available cab and will eliminate the problem of two or three cabs from different companies going to the same address. This should greatly reduce the dreaded no-go, free up more cabs to pick up more orders and lead to better coverage in the neighborhoods.  It's best idea to improve service that anybody has come up with in the thirty years I've been in the taxi business.

The details of how this will be implemented have yet to be worked out. After the Board meeting, Director Chris Hayashi said that she will be holding meetings involving Frias Transportation Infrastructure, the cab companies and the public as to how best to implement the technology. Issues such as allowing companies to keep their own dispatch systems and brands as well as pre-tipping will be studied and discussed.

Too Many Cabs

The indefatigable Tariq Mehmood brought in somewhere around fifty drivers to speak against more cabs and Electronic Waybills. He handed out a script that they were supposed to follow which ended with a call for Tariq's favorite fetish - firing Director Hayashi. It turned out that Electoronic Waybills were Okayed by the Board over a year ago and were not on the agenda. As for Hayashi ... apparently only a couple of drivers shared Mehmood's weird obsession.

What most of the drivers did speak about was the decline of income caused by unfair competition from the illegal, uninsured vehicles of Lyft and Sidecar etc. Many drivers said that their were making 50% less than they were making a year ago. One driver said that he had started driving for Uber but quit and went back to Yellow after Uber put out so many fake cabs that his income at Uber dropped in half. Medallion holders spoke about being unable to find drivers to fill shifts. A little humor was injected by a driver named Ben who talked about a date that didn't go too well with a woman who turned out to be a Lyft driver.

Director Ed Reiskin, who is apparently powerless to go anything about this, suggested that the drivers tell their tales at the CPUC hearings that begin on April 10th.

Good idea.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Electronic Taxi Access

Kudos to Director Christiane Hayashi. For over thirty years cab drivers have wanted a universal dispatching system in San Francisco. Thanks to the Director, this dream is finally being realized.

Of course such a system was really impossible thirty years ago because the technology for it didn't exist. And, while said technology has existed for the last five years or so (Remember Open Taxi Access?), the political landscape was not ready for such a venture. To spell this out in plain English - the good ol' corrupt boys' network kept it from happening.

But, thanks to Hayshi's persistence in overcoming hurdles  (including the MTA Board's indifference, opposition from Luxor and Yellow cab companies, mindless personal attacks, cab driver paranoia and the Byzantine weirdness of the MTA) the idea is about to come to fruition as Electronic Taxi Access (ETA).

Under ETA, all apps would be required to show all the available cabs in San Francisco thus allowing the customers to choose the closest taxis on their smart phone apps. The benefits of this have been immediately obvious to every customer I've discussed the subject with but I'll spell them out anyway.

The customers will no longer have to guess which company (or companies) to call or hail because they will able to know what cabs are nearest to them. The taxis will be color coded by company so the customers can also select companies that they prefer. Coupled with pre-tipping or similar perks this should pretty much insure that the customers will get a ride in the shortest possible time.

The drivers will get the similar benefits. A Desoto driver will no longer have to go back downtown empty from the Richmond or the Sunset because a customer one block away from him or her called a Luxor and visa versa.

The balkanization of the cab industry into competing dispatching fiefdoms is one major reason that Uber et al have had such an easy time taking away our business. Drivers have been reticent to go into the neighborhoods because they have been afraid of no-goes caused by customers calling several taxi companies at once.

Electronic Taxi Access will help make us competitive again while improving service to the neighborhoods.

President Hansu Kim of Desoto Cab, on the other hand, is concerned that his company might lose its distinct brand with this system. While he agrees that all electronic hailing should be linked, Desoto is developing an app of its own which he thinks will give the public better service than anybody else in the business. He does not think that his app should be required to show taxis from cab companies that have invested nothing to improve service.

I wonder if this is as serious problem as he thinks it is? The color coding should distinguish Desoto from the other companies and, if his drivers continue to give superior service, customers will select them over the opposition and they should continue to make more money and want to stay with Desoto. If his app is really good customers will go to it to choose his cabs first. In addition, Desoto drivers will have the benefit of getting rides from other apps.

A Request for Information was put out a few months ago and the bid to create ETA was won by Frias Transportation Infrastructure (FTI) of Las Vegas.  FTI was chosen over CMT,  Digital Dispatch, Electronic Connect, Flywheel and Veriphone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hara Study Calls for 120 Cabs in 2013, 200 in 2014, 800 Total

At the Town Hall Meeting yesterday,  Director Chris Hayashi gave us a preview of the Hara and Associates study that will officially be given to the SFMTA Board on March 19th. (Make that April 16 - see below).The above figures are the number of new taxis that the MTA staff will recommend that the Board approve.

The numbers are based on three assumptions:
1. That there are not enough taxis to meet the demand now.
2. That the city will grow over the next eight or ten years, increasing the demand for cabs.
3. That many people who don't take cabs now will begin taking them if the service improves.

The figures naturally will be subjects for extreme debate. I personally don't think any more cabs should be put out until Lyft and Sidecar are crushed while Yellow Cab's Nate Dwiri is probably thinking, "Why didn't I ask for a thousand?"

Mark Gruberg, among others, complained that people will not have enough time to study the Hara document before the MTA votes on it. I made a similar point in a conversation with Hayashi after the meeting and she said ...

But just as I'm about to post, the Staff comes down with a bout of common sense and sends along this message:

March 13, 2013

The SFMTA Board hearing on whether to issue new medallions will NOT be held
on March 19, but instead will be conducted on April 16, 2013. This decision to
reschedule the hearing is to allow time for public review of the final report from
Hara and Associates prior to action being taken by the Board. The SFMTA
expects the Hara Report to be ready for distribution during the week of March
18. Copies will be distributed to the SFTaxi newsletter and will be posted on our website

There will be a Town Hall meeting to discuss the Hara Report on April 9,
2013. See

The following item related to taxis will still be heard on the March 19, 2013 Board
Amending Transportation Code Sections 1102, 1105, 1108, 1109, 1113 and 1114 to require all motor vehicle for hire permit holders to cooperate with implementation of the Electronic Taxi Access (ETA) System to support the development of taxi hailing smart phone applications, forcolor scheme permit holders to provide financial data to support the SFMTA’s review of gatefees, and extending the deadlines for implementation of electronic trip data and blind-accessible passenger information monitors, and providing that a driver may not smoke inside ataxi at any time.

I'll deal with the report in more detail after reading it. I'll review Electronic Taxi Access (ETA) etc manana.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Reply Comments to the CPUC on Lyft, Sidecar & Willie Brown

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, representing Tickengo, has joined Lyft and Sidecar in their relentless attempts to square the circle of taxi and insurance regulations through the deliberate misuse and disingenuous re-definition of ordinary words. To give you some idea of what you’re in for if you read through Sidecar’s 25-page tome:

“ ... the ridesharing exemption does not apply if the ‘primary purpose of those persons is to make a ‘profit’ but there is no definition or any guidance on how to interpret the term ‘profit.’”

This reminds me of the old Bill Cosby routine where he dates a philosophy student who keeping asking him questions like, “What is air?”

The Facts

Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo are commercial enterprises that profit (i.e. make money) from licensing phone apps to drivers and their customers. The way it works is that a customer uses an app to hail a driver. The driver accepts the hail, picks up the customer and takes him or her to a destination. The customer pays. The driver gets 80% and the companies get 20% of the payment.

Ten major auto insurers that I contacted, as well as the Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC), describe such business as either taxicab or livery services that are required to carry business or commercial insurance. The problem for Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo is that they don’t want their drivers to have to pay commercial insurance rates and they don’t want to be regulated. Among the reasons why: 

  1. Commercial insurance is more expensive. The rate on my 2009 4-door Camry with $150,000 - $300,000 personal liability is $580 every six months. The quote I got for business use was $1,480.
  2. The California Highway Patrol's Motor Carrier Safety regulations require that charter party carriers, (i.e. cabs and limos, among other things), inspect and maintain the vehicles to ensure that they are in safe operating order.  (13 CCR § 1232.)  The CPUC requires charter-party carriers to maintain proper documentation of such inspections.  (CPUC Gen. Order 157-6 §4.02.) 

Since Lyft and Sidecar allow cars dating as far back as 2000, many of the vehicles would most certainly fail these inspections. This failure rate and the cost of these inspections, coupled with the high price of commercial insurance, would drastically reduce the available pool of drivers.

Denying that People Work for Money

Sidecar went into some detail on its strange concept of  “profit” with the following:

By its enforcement actions and policy, the CPSD (Public Utilities Commission's Consumer Protection Safety Division) has apparently chosen to interpret essential and undefined terms such as “profit” as narrowly as possible. The CPSD’s position is that only “incremental” or “variable” profit (i.e., on a per-trip basis) should be considered; however ... a reasonable and practical construction of profit and a commercial enterprise is the total expenses of operation (i.e., the fixed and variable or aggregate costs). Simply put, there’s no profit where total costs exceed income ...

Brilliant! Nobody has ever thought of that before.

Sidecar, then, is desperately trying to redefine “profit” into some murky arcane concept that nobody can understand. Common sense provides the obvious rebuttal to this self-serving re-definition . How many people would spend twenty or thirty hours a week running passengers here and there if they didn’t make money doing it?  

In addition, Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo advertise for drivers by telling them that they will make money.   A Lyft ad says:

 "Make $22/hr With Your Car - Have A Car? Give A Lyft -"  

The Sidecar driver application opens with:

"You drive every day. Why not get paid for it? Make extra cash and meet some awesome people by driving with SideCar! ... Some SideCar drivers are earning $22+ per hour."

Tickengo’s website is a little subtler and doesn’t mention money until the end of its driver page when it writes:

"Get Paid When you accept a ride, your passenger receives an electronic ticket with a PIN. Ask for this code once at destination to get paid. If the ride goes well, you'll get a good review, which means more requests and more money... Enjoy!"

Given that these are their own advertisements, no one should be surprised if the arguments that Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo put forward to prove that their drivers don’t make a “profit” tend toward the esoteric.
The “Who Can Read Minds?” Denial
Sidecar writes:
"The ridesharing exemption under section 5353(h) provides for “[t]ransportation of persons between home and work locations or of persons having a common work-related trip purpose in a vehicle having a seating capacity of 15 passengers or less…and/or transportation that is “incidental to another purpose of the driver.... It is ... important that the phrase “the purpose of the driver” not be read too narrowly. A focus on driver’s state of mind would be so difficult to discern that it would create uncertainty and be impossible to enforce."
This was thought to be so profound that it was echoed by Willie Brown who wrote: 
“It would be impossible to read drivers’ minds and differentiate between people just helping out other people trying to recoup their vehicle expenses.”
Impossible to read drivers’ minds? Wouldn’t the fact that Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo drivers transport customers for an average of $22 per hour be an indication of what’s going on in their heads?
“Work-related” means driving around while thinking about working.
Sidecar asks that the CPUC: 
“Clarify and ensure reasonable and practical guidance and commercially reasonable interpretations of certain vague and undefined ridesharing terms and phrases including “work-related” and “work locations.”  Such terms and phrases should not be construed narrowly based on outdated historical or traditional principles of an employer-employee relationship and a traditional “9-5” home- work commuting routine. ... Rather, the terms and phrases should be construed for the varied circumstances of the current California labor force and market. The CPSD has narrowly defined these terms through its enforcement policies and actions in a manner that is impracticable and unwarranted (i.e., suggesting that a driver or passenger must be an “employee” of an entity, thereby disqualifying independent contractors, freelancers, or full time moms/caregivers from the “work-related” element of the rideshare exemption).
If the rideshare exemption is not actually intended to refer to the act of sharing a ride between common destinations, as opposed to offering paid, on-demand transportation, and if the CPUC proves capable of accepting this kind of self-serving obfuscation of common language from the mouths of for-profit businesses -- from whom the CPUC is supposed to be protecting the public -- then I think I’ll start looking for housing in some neighborhood that is nowhere near a PG&E gas line.
Innocence by Association 
Willie Brown keeps lumping Tickengo together will a true, government-run ridesharing site,, in hopes that the reader will get the expression “ridesharing sites such as or Tickengo” stamped on his or her brain. In fact, Brown links Tickengo with at least seventeen times in eight pages.  But a quick glance at the website proves this connection a lie. Instead of advertising for drivers that get paid, a add says:

 “Carpooling can save you money by dividing the driving expenses between members of the carpool. You can split the costs evenly between people in the carpool or you can split expenses by how often you rotate driving duties. If everyone drives equally, no money needs to change hands. If you are strictly a passenger, you can pitch in your share for gas and other expenses.”

Indeed, in the carpooling situations that I’m familiar with, passengers usually will offer to pay a dollar for the bridge or the gas. The drivers certainly don’t make $22 per hour before or after expenses.

The Magic of Numbers

Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo all propose that the AAA annual cost of vehicle ownership ($8,776 per year) be used as a standard to judge whether or not a driver should be considered to be doing ridesharing. In the words of Willie Brown: “It would be impossible to calculate the exact expense of every trip so this limitation guarantees that ridesharing drivers are not ‘driving for a living’ as commercial drivers.” Brown is saying, that until drivers make $8,776 a year they are doing ridesharing. Over that amount, they are considered cab or limo drivers.

What’s wrong with this sophistry?

The main thing wrong with Brown’s logic is that the law was set up for actual carpooling operations, not taxi or livery services that are pretending to be carpools like Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo.  The purpose of the carpooling law was to help the environment by taking cars off the street, not by putting thousands more cars on it as Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo are doing.

The figures being thrown around by Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo bear no relationship to a real carpooling situation. Let’s look at what a real carpooling situation would look like, given that AAA estimates 2012 California driving costs for 2012 as $0.596 per mile driven, and using a real carpool ride from San Francisco to Oakland as an example:
    1. For a 15-mile trip across the Bay Bridge, according the AAA standard, the mileage and toll costs to the driver per year would be $2974.
    2.   This is a difference of $5802 from the AAA total annual vehicle costs.  If this is used by the CPUC as a measure of “ridesharing”: 
  • This hard-working carpool driver, who goes into the office on every weekday of the year without taking a sick day or single state or federal holiday, can earn some extra income by driving up an additional 9,735 miles after work (about 185 miles per week, every week of the year, or about one standard taxi shift per week) driving people around with a pink mustache on the front of the car without violating the concept of “ridesharing”; or
  • This carpool driver will have to collect $5.71 from every casual carpool “customer” to recoup their annual vehicle expenses at the AAA rate.  This is exactly $4.71 per person more than the going rate at every transbay carpool stand.
    1. In a real transbay casual carpool, the passengers will sometimes (not always) contribute a dollar each toward the toll.  This custom only developed when the Bridge District recently started charging toll for use of the carpool lane.  This vehicle owner who drives to the City might hope, then, to collect $520 from two daily passengers.  In that case the difference between what this driver might collect and the proposed annual vehicle cost standard is $8256.
  • This tireless hypothetical vehicle owner, by Sidecar, Lyft and Tickengo’s standards, is free to drive an additional two standard taxi shifts per week, every week of the year (266 miles per week) in order to earn back their vehicle expenses for the year.   
If Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo drivers were to work eight hours per day with a 15 mile per hour average, vehicle expenses would be ($8.94 * 8 hours) or $71.52 per day. Using the AAA yearly limit of $8,776 as a measure, the illegal taxicabs of Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo would be allowed to operate five days a week for twenty-four weeks (nearly six months per year), or half-time during an entire year before they reached their “ridesharing” limit.  At $22 per hour promised returns, these drivers would actually make $21,120, or $12,344 more than the cost of all of their annual personal vehicle expenses.  A free personal vehicle and $12,000 a year in cash for working  (i.e. “ridesharing”) part-time.  Not bad.

Now that is what I call a good working definition of the difference between illegal taxicabs like Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo and a real carpool.

Another good definition of a real carpool would be a non-profit like that can't afford to pay Willie Brown $500 an hour to represent them.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CPUC Hearings Begin

The California Public Utilities Commission began hearings recently on Rulemaking on Regulations Relating to Passenger Carriers, Ridesharing and New Online Enabled Transportation Services. Administrative Law Judge Robert Mason presided and will see the hearings through to the end.

People who attended included Director Chris Hayashi from Taxi Services, Mark Gruberg from the United Taxicab Workers, Barry Korengold of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association, Carl Macmurdo of the Medallion Holders Association, myself, Willie Brown speaking for Tickengo (aka "Lyft Light") and representatives from the International Association of Transportation Regulators,the San Francisco Paratransit Association, the SFMTA, the SFO, Uber, Sidecar, Lyft and others.

A transcript of the hearing has yet to be circulated and I was unable to take notes so all I can do is give you my impressions.

This was a feeling out session where a few positions were laid out and some preliminary points scored.

Judge Mason said that there would be four different issues involved: Jurisdiction, Public Safety, Ridesharing and Insurance. 

But before going into detail, I’d like to remind everyone that the CPUC lifted a “cease and desist” order against Lyft and Uber before the hearings began and rescinded a $20,000 fine against both companies. Both Lyft and Uber have issued statements saying that the question of the legality  of “ridesharing services" (the supposed purpose of the hearings) has already been settled in their favor. In their blog, Uber wrote:

“ ... the agreement (with the CPUC) states that ride-sharing — or rides provided by drivers not specifically licensed to drive a limousine or taxi — is legal, too. This paves the way for Uber to begin offering ride-sharing services in California in the near future.”

(BTW - The lead photo comes from a site of downloadable CPUC images. Is the CPUC now advertising for Uber on top of everything else?)

All of which begs the question: If the issues have already been decided, why are these hearings even taking place?


Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo claimed that they should not be regulated by the CPUC or anybody else because they were carpooling or ridesharing services and were given an exemption under a law that former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown knows how to quote.

But so do I and California Public Utilities Code Section 5353(h) describes actions considerably different than the ones Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo drivers use to conduct their businesses.

Calif. Public Utilities Code Section 5353:

(h) Transportation of persons between home and work locations or
of persons having a common work-related trip purpose in a vehicle
having a seating capacity of 15 passengers or less, including the
driver, which are used for the purpose of ridesharing, as defined in
Section 522 of the Vehicle Code, when the ridesharing is incidental
to another purpose of the driver....

Of course, what Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo do is pick customers up at a location of their choosing and transport them to various other locations for a fee - just like a taxicab. Ridesharing, Inc. a real ridesharing service, describes Lyft etc as "peer to peer taxicab services." 

I think this is a useful designation because, while the drivers are being paid, they are untrained amateurs which puts them on the same abysmal level as the average San Francisco driver. Most of all, I like “peer to peer taxicab service” because Sidecar’s attorney hated it. It blows apart Sidecar’s pretense of being a carpooling service.

In fact, Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo all tacitly admit that they are not really ridesharing services under the current law.  The reason that they all want the CPUC to change this law is so that their businesses can become legal ridesharing services in the future and avoid the regulations that they should be following now but aren't.

Uber, on the other hand,  argues that it shouldn't be regulated because its product is merely an app and all the business responsibilities are handled by either by drivers who have their own limos or various agencies that train the drivers and license the vehicles. They also argue (in the spirit of double-think) that they offer new technology that can't be regulated for reasons that this humble cab driver may be too slow to grasp.

In fact, the technology is neither new nor unique. Apps like Flywheel, Hailo and Taxi Magic offer riders similar services to Uber - only they do so through legal companies and by following city and state laws. 

What is unique about Uber is their determination to market their product as if no laws existed, regardless of its impact on existing industries or the public.

Uber may be an app, but that app has consequences in the real world. Uber is putting hundreds of limo drivers on the street with vehicles that pollute the atmosphere. Ditto for Lyft and Sidecar which have very few hybrid vehicles in their fleets.

The SFMTA has commissioned an expensive study on how to improve the taxi industry which is going to be useless because it's impossible to calculate, without accurate information, the effect that the 1,500 or so vehicles put out by Lyft, Sidecar and Uber are having, or will have, on service, safety and the environment. Uber, in fact, has put out Uber X in direct competition to taxicabs and claims that it is legal because the vehicles have TCP numbers and thus are not taxis - although they act like taxis and do not follow charter-passenger carrier regulations.

Uber clearly has to be regulated, if for no other reason than to keep them from exploiting the people of San Francisco by doubling their prices in the event of an earthquake like they did when the storms wrecked New York last fall.

Public Safety

The main question here is how do you know that their drivers are vetted or the vehicles safe. Uber claims that such things are not their responsibility while Lyft and Sidecar make grandiose claims from giving tough driver interviews, intense driver training and thorough rigorous vehicle inspections for which they offer no verifiable proof of what-so-ever. 

Clearly, public safety demands regulation and oversight.  Especially for organizations like these whose leaders can't tell the difference between truth and marketing.


As I mentioned above, Lyft, Sidecar and Tickengo need to change the rules in order to become the ridesharing services they want to be, instead of the taxicab services that they actually are. 


I've had my say on this subject but I'd like to add that I think every vehicle transporting customers should be required to carry the same 1 million dollar insurance policies as taxicabs.

In General

Judge Mason seemed to be remarkably uninformed about what Lyft, Sidecar and Uber do. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. He certainly will have the chance to get up to speed and a fresh mind could spell a lack of prejudice. On the other hand, it could make it more difficult for the judge to understand the issues. 

For instance, I was taken to task by Judge Mason for "editorializing" when I characterized Lyft, Sidecar etc as "bogus" ridesharing services but he didn't appear to understand that almost everything that Lyft and Sidecar representatives said could be accurately characterized as science fiction.

I pointed out to Judge Mason that I had interviewed with Sidecar and they inspected my car from a photograph. Of course the Sidecar attorney disputed that this had happened and it was clear that the Judge accepted Sidecar's spin. I can't say that I blame him.

I myself was stunned when the Sidecar rep finished my group orientation and told us that there would be no individual interviews, meaning that the cars would not be inspected. We were urged to download the Sidecar app and get working ASAP.  It wasn't just me. Seventeen other drivers were approved at that session and told to get a move on without having their cars so much as glanced at.

Of course, unless Sidecar is run by imbeciles, they would have started inspecting the cars once my post came out. Or, maybe not. These people get more mileage out of lying than anybody I've ever seen. And why should it be otherwise? All they have to do is open their mouths and the local press eagerly prints whatever dribbles out as gospel.

The question of insurance still hasn't been dealt with and I'm beginning to wonder if it ever will be.

It's interesting to note that Sidecar no longer claims to have a million dollar policy and that their attorney remained silent when Judge Mason asked if they had insurance. He let Lyft's attorney answer for both or them by saying that Lyft had a million dollar insurance policy. The judge accepted her statement as fact.

When I pointed out the urgency of dealing with the 800 uninsured vehicles already on the street, the judge said he didn't want to hear about insurance.

Silly me.  I thought the overriding issue was supposed to be public safety.

Key Issue

The key immediate issue is whether or not Judge Mason will go forth with evidentiary hearings. If so, Lyft, Sidecar, Tickengo and Uber will actually have to answer questions about how they do business as opposed to sending us to links that don't exist like they do now. At an evidentiary hearing Lyft would actually have to produce the million dollar "excess liability" insurance policy that they claim they have and whether it includes total coverage when their personal policies are voided. Uber would have to tell us exactly how many vehicles they have on the street and what percentages of the fares that they are taking from their drivers. And, sidecar would have to prove its safety claims.

But, in light of the agreements with Lyft and Uber, the question remains: are these hearing anything other than a show?

Looking at Lyft's Blog as I finish this article, it's clear that Lyft CEO John Zimmer thinks he has been given the okay for a rapid expansion of his fraudulent taxicab business.