Friday, July 11, 2014

May the Farce Be with You.

When it comes to Uber, Lyft and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) I never know whether the appropriate comparison is Alice in Wonderland or Orwellian doublethink.

I went to Thursday's CPUC meeting filled with optimism because it looked like the Commission was finally going to make Uber, Lyft and the other faux taxicab corporations take some responsibility for clogging the streets with tens of thousands of amateur drivers in underinsured vehicles.

Commissioner Michael R. Peevey's (photo) Proposed Decision called for Million dollar insurance limits as long as the faux taxi driver had the app turned on (not ideal but a step in the right direction). The policy would also have given million dollar uninsured motorist coverage, $50,000 coverage for both comprehensive and collision, and $5,000 medical payments for driver or passenger.

In addition, I was buoyed up by Commissioner Peevey's ruling that "all ex parte <back door> communications be reported ..." This meant that there wouldn't be any sudden changes like there were last year when the CPUC lifted cease and desist orders against Uber & Lyft before the hearing on ridesharing started. Certainly the arguments put forth by Uber, Lyft & Sidecar in their comments weren't intelligent or convincing enough to cause a rational, knowledgeable, unbiased person to change anything in the faux taxi corps' favor.


When I got to the hearing room, I sat down next to Mark Gruberg of the United Taxicab Workers and learned that the rules on ex parte communications did not apply to Commissioner Peevey himself. The coverages had been magically changed to:

A). $100,000 per person and $300,000 for more than one person, and $50,000 property damage for the period when a faux taxi driver has the app on but is not matched with a customer. It is also Excess Commerical liability insurance and only kicks in after the driver's insurance pays (or not?) – meaning that it would take a long time for the victims to collect their money.

This is the same situation as when Sophia Liu was killed by the Uber driver. The bills for the Liu accident have already reached about $200,000 and will go way over the $300,000 limit.

B). $1,000,000 Primary coverage will only apply in cases where the faux taxi driver is either carrying a customer or has accepted a match with one.

C). There will no longer be any coverage for uninsured motorist, comprehensive, collision or medical.

Peevey Shows His Prejudice

Although most taxi people were unaware of these changes before they came to Thursday's hearing, the ex parte hotline clearly had been open to Uber & Lyft.

Of the 30 speakers at the hearings, the faux taxi drivers outnumbered real taxi people by four to one.

As one faux speaker after another came up and said his or her piece they were roundly applauded by the others - which is unusual. Normally people are told not to do this at meetings but not always.

However, when taxi driver Barry Toronto started speaking he said something that the faux drivers didn't like so they booed him, talked over him and shouted him down.

Then, something happened that I have never seen before at any kind of public meeting. Commissioner Michael R. Peevey, the moderator, DID NOT TELL THE HECKLERS TO CEASE AND LET TORONTO SPEAK.

Mr. Toronto had shout out that he had the right to speak himself. In fact, he had to tell this to Peevey three or four times before the Commissioner finally said, in bored voice, "Please quiet down."

The White Rabbit

When Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off her head
Remember what the door mouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head
                          Grace Slick

For me, the highlight of the hearing was the parade of Uber & Lyft drivers who got up to trash real cab drivers and praise the insurance modifications that would strip medical and collision benefits away from these geniuses – the speakers themselves.

Uber & Lyft management types had apparently told their drivers that Uber & Lyft would have to go out of business if they had to pay for normal commercial insurance coverage.

A large number of these speakers said that they'd be homeless if it wasn't for their driving jobs. Given yesterday's sample of their critical thinking powers, one can see why. If (let's make that "when") some of these untrained drivers in their mechanically under-inspected cars get injured in accidents – thanks to Trevor Kalanick & John Zimmer not to mention Michael R. Peevey – they'll have a damn fine chance of becoming homeless once again.

Coming: Arguments that I didn't get a chance to give.


  1. Somebody should have conducted a citizens arrest of Michael Peevey for being drunk while presiding over a public meeting.

  2. Does this decision by Peevey regarding $100,000 of coverage have any effect on Assembly Woman Bonilla's pending legislation regarding insurance coverage amounts?

  3. Whatever the State legislature decides would override the CPUC decision. But, this lowers the standard and an army of lobbyists from Uber&Lyft are offering Goolge juice at every back door in Sacramento that they can find so that their amateurish, untrained drivers can continue to kill children without their having to pick up the tab.

  4. Ed,
    Thanks for the great coverage of the CPUC hearing. I wonder if anybody wants to comment on the future of the Medallion system and future of taxi's in SF. With the never ending onslaught from TNC's and zero oversight of their new brazen tactics of picking up street hails, will taxi's actually be eradicated? Uber has the money to operate UberX at a loss and undercut taxi prices for 20 years if they want. How can taxi's survive?

    1. as to your question about cutting prices for 20 years if they want? and what economic impact or damage this may do to existing fully compliant operators?

      I happen to believe this where the predatory business practices argument comes in to play, and we shall see in the several federal court cases how this plays out?

    2. anon I will run with that, in the 1st place gvt benefits from the medallions, in that regard gvt will have a choice to do away with the revenues those generate or not. My guess? That will not evaporate simply because the TNC's are about, rather gvt will find the way to extract revenues from the TNC's as existing operators report potentially less reciepts.

      When that hits its peak watch gvt rethink their approach to the illegal preadotry business practices of the scofflaw TNC's scheme.

      Until then the TNC's biggest problem is a marshaled oragnized front from the entire livery industry who demand that TNC's simply be held to same business standards as they are held to in every detail.

  5. My name is spelled Taranto. Also, it is Travis Kalanick. Otherwise, great summary!

  6. My apologies Mr. Taranto,

    But I won't correct my error. You comment would make little sense without it and I'm grateful for the kind words. Besides, my misspelling also might annoy Traves – as in "travesty."