Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lyft, Sidecar & Uber Blow Smoke at CPUC All Party Meeting

You understand that "smoke" is a euphemism, a polite way of saying something crude but accurate. You all know what the word really stands for. What you may not understand is the extent, the amount, and the suffocating density of the "smoke" that filled the CPUC hearing room at 505 Van Ness yesterday.

CEO John Zimmer of Lyft, for instance, was talking about his superior "innovative" approach to safety which included NOT fingerprinting driver applicants at his company.  "Some people don't have fingerprints," he concluded.

In doing so, he uttered one of the few actual facts that passed through the lips of a TNC spokesperson during the hearing. Indeed, some people don't have fingerprints. I looked it up. There are three main conditions that cause this absence. The most common is Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn syndrome, which occurs in less than 1 in 1,000,000 people. The second most common is Adermatoglyphia, which affects only four extended families worldwide (including one in Sweden with 9 of 16 members having no prints). Coming in third is Dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis (DPR), with approximately 12 cases that have been reported since 1958.

Do you think that the FBI, NASA and my bank are going to give up fingerprinting on the basis of Zimmer's info? I think not.

 What Zimmer's statement demonstrated was the lengths to which he and his fellow TNC's will go to avoid spending so much as a dime on a thing that they consider as insignificant as the public's safety.

(To be continued later.)

Just as I was sitting down to hack out this post on these fork-tonged geeks, I received this message from Administrative Law Judge Robert M. Mason III of the CPUC,

Dear Parties and Counsel:

President Peevey has placed a one-meeting hold on this PD. What this means is that the Commission will vote on whether to approve the PD at the September 19, 2013 Commission meeting.

In other words, we don't have to get up early tomorrow. This means that I can watch the rest of the first season of Revolution tonight and deal with the techie snake-oil salesmen down the line.

Kudos your honor.


  1. Ed,
    You are really red hot on this one. Great writing. Can't wait to read the rest. One question? Is Uber one of the good guys now, even though UberX competes directly with taxis? Were their representatives there to defend this service?

  2. The main question I want to know is where is Yellow Cab(the biggest cab company) in all this? I never hear about them filing briefs to defend cab industry or helping to get a really good app off the ground.
    PS with just a little money a really good cab app could be developed and supported.

  3. I was signing up to be a driver. I had my car checked and everything. For the heck of it I did some additional research which then led me to think to check with my insurance. I have State Farm and they said that my coverage wouldn't cover any incidents that occurred when I was working as a Lyft driver. They also don't offer any type of insurance to cover me in this situation. I told my contact at Lyft that I won't be covered by my insurance and that it is too risky for me. He simply said, "Okay". Needless to say, I decided not to be a driver with Lyft.


  4. Hey Ed,
    Not that my armchair analysis necessarily says anything you don't already know, here is a copy of my comments to the Examiner article reporting on the suspension of the CPUC vote until September 19.
    I want to echo Peter Kirby's comment on one hand, and answer JoeQPublic, who wants to hear about the additional burden, on the other. Joe Q raises a good point but the answer begins with the recognition that taxi drivers, taxi companies, and medallion holders cannot be considered a single group for CPUC's purposes. Similarly, Joe Q should not confuse the drivers working for these new for-hire services for the service companies themselves, as appears to be the case. Finally, the venture capital behind these new entrants "rounds out" the competitive picture in a way the CPUC elides.
    The real battle over regulation/deregulation is being missed by the CPUC, purposely or not, giving the appearance that they are simply putting lipstick on a pig with the official rebranding of the car-sharing model as Transportation Network Companies. This memorializes the preference of these new companies to be treated as if they were something inherently different from for-hire transport services, which is misleading at best. Existing taxi drivers are hurting already from this preferential treatment, and they can't afford it.
    The CPUC does not want to treat the problem of unequal treatment because that would lead inevitably to the problem of taxi medallions, which a reasonable solution must address (in jurisdictions where the medallion system is in place). People own those medallions and paid prices for them based on the then-existing for-hire transport market. In some cases, they are politically connected, as well. These people would have to be bought out in order to properly deregulate the for-hire transport market because only then could the medallion holders be "made whole." Likewise, only then could the market for for-hire transport services be made "fairly competitive" for all players and reasonably efficient for long-suffering customers.
    PS An even longer post on this general subject can be found here:

  5. I saw a pink mustache driver yesterday and he had his little dog on his lap, so cute.

  6. FYI. When you ask Google voice for a ride, it now directs you to UBER. They really do plan on taking over the world.

  7. I like how you intentionally filter comments to make it seem like everyone is on your side.

    FUCK cabs and FUCK the people who drive them. You all have been running a monopoly on an industry and have been taking advantage of the public for too long.

    Long live these new TNCs. I hope they run your asses broke.

  8. At least we're insured assholes.

    As for my intentionally filtering comments: who doesn't?

    When I asked Lyft just to show the exclusions and limitations of their insurance policy they not only deleted my comment from their blog, they deleted the entire thread. And, that was just for a question.

    Given the millions of venture capital dollars behind the TNC's, they can afford to buy their own press – which they appear to have already done.

    I'm not going to give them free advertising on my little blog.

    BTW. I hope you enjoyed your moment of fame. Your intellectual level obviously is way too low for my readership.

    The Phantom

  9. Hey Orboris,

    "Heavy" as we used to say in the sixties.

    "Elide???" It's been ages since anybody dropped a word on me that I've never heard of or read before. Do you mean it in the original sense of "omit," or the now common meaning of "join together, merge?" Both are possibilities given the context of your sentence.

    Will check out your link soon.


    The Phantom