Hon. Ben Hueso, Chair
Senate Energy, Utilities &
State Capitol, Room 2209
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Chair Hueso,
AB 650 purports to “level the playing field” between taxis and TNCs by essentially deregulating the taxi industry instead of creating safer and more rational regulations for the TNCs. In doing so, AB 650 is much more likely to result in the destruction of the taxicab business than its salvation – at great cost to public safety and the environment.
For instance, the main reason why taxicabs are losing market share is because there are no limits on the numbers of Uber & Lyft vehicles put on the streets. AB 650 tackles this problem by saying that “there will be no limits on the number of vehicles (i.e. taxies)” either. In other words, the authors of this bill think that putting out more taxies is the solution to having too many taxi-like vehicles on the street already.
I hope that the Chair won’t think I’m being flippant when I suggest that the authors of this bill consider psychiatric care – because I’m not.
AB 650 is filled with too many clauses to go into here so I want to concentrate on a few regulations that are of special danger to the public as riders, drivers and pedestrians.
(1) AB 650 limits background checks “on acts involving violence, any sexual offense ... or felony offense, or offense involving the possession of a firearm … to seven years.” Taxi background checks in San Francisco, by contrast, go back to pick up any violent or sexual offense that a person ever committed.
Under AB 650 a person imprisoned for violent sexual offenses could walk out of lockup one day and be driving a taxi a week later. This is not an imaginary scenario.
Uber drivers with criminal convictions (who had passed background checks similar to those in AB 650) have been responsible for numerous accidents, assaults and rapes. Syed Musaffar, who hit and killed 6-year-old Sophia Liu with an Uber Vehicle in 2014, had been convicted of reckless driving 10 years earlier.
(2) AB 650 requires “the taxicab carrier to procure liability insurance at NO MORE THAN $100,000 … $300,000 for death and personal injury.” Furthermore, it “Prohibits a city … or any local agency to require insurance in a manner different from that required by this article.”
As a former insurance underwriter, this is the strangest insurance rule that I have ever seen proposed. Insurance limits are rarely, if ever, capped. What is normally stated is the minimal amount needed like the $15,000/$30,000 limits to drive a car in California.
Furthermore, $100,000/$300,000 is inadequate to cover many death or injury accidents. The bills for the mother of Sophia Liu, who was severally injured in the above accident, went over $1,000,000.
As near as I can tell, the main purpose of this clause is to allow people who would not normally be considered financially responsible to drive cabs.
In the process, the bill guarantees that victims severally injured or killed in California taxicab accidents would not get just compensation. The bills from their injuries would be passed on to the state.
(3) The expanding numbers of new taxi drivers in cars without emission controls would result in ever-higher measures of greenhouse gases and ever-more gridlock.
Therefore I urge you to vote NO on AB 650