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Can Ride-Sharing Startup Lyft Survive the SoCal Heat? 133

Posted by timothy
from the every-potluck-robs-a-restauranteur dept.
First time accepted submitter Kyle Jacoby writes "The app-powered on-demand ride-sharing startup, Lyft, has brought its trademark pink mustaches to San Diego. After a successful venture in San Francisco about a year ago, Lyft has since expanded to offer their services to other congested cities, like Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Despite the utility of the service, Lyft (and related services Sidecar and Uber) has recently come under fire from the city of Los Angeles, whose department of transportation issued cease-and-desist letters to the startup. It seems that the service has the taxi community in an uproar, who believe that Lyft ride-share drivers should be required to obtain the permits similar to those required of taxi drivers." Nothing like some regulatory capture for Independence Day. Amid the ongoing strike of BART workers in the Bay Area, I bet some people are using on-line organization tools for ride-sharing with a similar upshot.
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Can Ride-Sharing Startup Lyft Survive the SoCal Heat?

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  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:10PM (#44189743) Homepage

    "Passengers and drivers rate each other after every ride. If you rate a driver below 4 stars, youâ(TM)ll never be matched with that driver again. If a driver's average falls below 4½ out of 5 stars, they are removed from the Lyft community. It's our way of maintaining high-quality standards."

    Can anyone tell me what the point is of a 5 star rating system if anything below 4.5 stars gets you kicked out? All this is going to end up doing is artificially inflating ratings. Basically everyone will be a five star driver or a zero star. It makes no sense whatsoever. I would think any logical system would have at least 3 stratas of "Excellent/Well above average", "OK", and "Average, but would ride with again".

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well actually no.

      if you have 100 five stars, a single 1 star will not get you kicked off.

      if you have a single 5 star and get that one, you'll get kicked off.

      • Its stil bonkers. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:27PM (#44189839) Homepage

        If you have 100 four stars you will be kicked out. The system is basically saying you need to give any driver you want to keep five stars, all the time. This makes a 5 point rating system pointless and it might as well be a boolean "Keep? Yes / No" flag that is averaged.

        • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:22PM (#44190165)
          Just like ebay ratings.
          • by Golddess (1361003)
            I had no idea that eBay would kick out sellers that get too much negative feedback. Or even just too much neutral feedback.
        • by tlambert (566799) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:32PM (#44190231)

          If you have 100 four stars you will be kicked out. The system is basically saying you need to give any driver you want to keep five stars, all the time. This makes a 5 point rating system pointless and it might as well be a boolean "Keep? Yes / No" flag that is averaged.

          People other than engineers do not do the mathematical reductions like this in their head, and then act accordingly.

          Personally, I never thought eBay would go anywhere, since it's not actually an auction; the mathematical reduction is "second lowest bid ceiling plus bid increment", given that you can give a bid ceiling, and it will automatically "bid" for you. But seriously, on the back end you could just insertion sort the bid ceilings, look at the first two in the table, and make the decision on that basis. I thought the OnSale model, in which actual bids were being placed, in a non-automated fashion, was more of a real auction, and that they'd own things.

          But I had not taken into account that ordinary people don't do the mathematical reduction, and find the convenience of not having to watch their "bids" of more value than the actual "auctionness" of the auctions.

          I imagine they have "proprietary" back end safeguards against things like "perpetually lower-than-5-rating passengers, or some other means of throwing out the outliers so that they can keep their driver pool up, in case that ever became a real issue for their business expansion. I suspect at this point, they'd rather have twice as many drivers that are unhappy about being thrown out of that role than they currently have, as a PAC to be able to have an effective block to counter the taxi interests. So if they don't have the rules behind the curtain, expect the rules in front of the curtain to change soon.

          Otherwise, it occurs to me that the taxi lobby could have a few people sign up as 5 day a week riders and perpetually rate the drivers "1" in order to reduce the number of drivers below the level of viability by gaming the published rating system.

          • Re:Its stil bonkers. (Score:4, Informative)

            by similar_name (1164087) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @10:04PM (#44191971)

            Personally, I never thought eBay would go anywhere, since it's not actually an auction; the mathematical reduction is "second lowest bid ceiling plus bid increment", given that you can give a bid ceiling, and it will automatically "bid" for you.

            I work at a real auction with real auctioneers. We have proxy bids if that's what you're referring to. It works no different than if you sent a rep to bid for you. The seller sets a floor of say $1000. If you place a proxy bid of $1500 and the increment is $100 you essentially start the bidding at $1100. If someone in person at the auction bids $1200 you automatically bid back $1300. The person at the auction can bid back. In theory the person at the auction should be following a similar formula. They should already know what they're willing to spend.

            I do see people in person bid others up just because they are new or because they don't like them for some reason. You may have no interest in buying something but can still make the other person pay more than they otherwise would have. After all if you can make someone else spend more money they won't have it when it's time to bid on what you want.

          • Re:Its stil bonkers. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Weezul (52464) on Friday July 05, 2013 @04:00AM (#44192975)

            There are sellers on ebay who create sock puppets to bid up the second highest bid. If they hit your bid ceiling they retract their previous bid, so you still win the auction, but near the highest price you considered. Always abandon the auction by retracting all your own bids if you observe suspicious bidding or retractions.

          • second lowest bid ceiling plus bid increment

            Actually, I think it's second highest bid ceiling plus bid increment. Automatic bid increments continue until only one person can make bids anymore (ie hasn't exceeded his ceiling yet).

            Automation is a necessity when you have bidders from all time zones and non-automated bidding requires being awake and at the computer at the end of the bidding period. You also need something to defend against people who bid at T minus 1 second.

    • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:21PM (#44189811)
      When do we get to start rating individual taxi drivers? There are a few of them I'd like to never be matched with again!
    • by willy_me (212994)
      It is saying that drivers require a 90% or better approval rating. If the driver has a major screw-up they will burn a pile of karma (or stars) and might be excluded from the driver pool. A minor screw-up burns less. But to actually understand the rating system you should know the passenger guideline on how to rate drivers. I imagine that a driver that does their job on time, is safe, and doesn't smell too bad gets an automatic 5 stars.
      • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:27PM (#44190197) Homepage

        Requiring 4.5 stars out of 5 is not a 90% approval rating. A 90% approval rating would have a "Do you approve of this driver? Yes/No" poll and require 90% to be yes.

        A 90% approval rating on a 5 star program would mean 90% of people must rate at 3 stars or higher. Not that the average rating be 4.5 stars or above. It is TOTALLY different.

        Your comments point out the problem perfectly. " I imagine that a driver that does their job on time, is safe, and doesn't smell too bad gets an automatic 5 stars.". So what does one do to get 3 stars? Stink of onions, run red lights, and be late? That's a 3 star driver?

        Then what is a 1 star driver, someone who runs over your wife and then spits on the corpse?

        By designing the rating system this way they are FORCING a skew to the right. It's idiotic. The only reason I can see them doing this is for some marketing tactic where they can claim they have all 5 star drivers without explaining the meaning.

        • They should ask five-ish specific questions like :
          (1) Was the driver on time? If no, how late?
          (2) Did the driver and vehicle seem safe? If not, explain.
          (3) Was the driver polite?
          (4) Was the vehicle clean?
          (5) Was the driver friendly, curt, etc.?

          Some questions like (1-4) are used to qualify drivers. Any personality questions like (5) are used to match up people with drivers they'll like more, but influence the qualification only minimally.

          Down side, if they're matching up curt drivers with curt people, and

    • You're falsely assuming they want average. They probably want excellent service only. If you want to ensure people only get excellent service, you're going to have to have a harsh cutoff built into the system somewhere.
      • No he's not. He's saying that if you have a ratings system where 5 means "Good", 4 means "Not good but could have been worse", and 1-3 means "Fire this guy", then people's default vote will be 5, and it'll be impossible to determine who's actually a good driver, and who just does the minimum.

        eBay is a good example of this idea in practice. By rights, the right item arriving as described during the advertised delivery period should be rated a "Neutral" transaction, and an average eBayer should have mostly

    • by mjwx (966435)

      "Passengers and drivers rate each other after every ride. If you rate a driver below 4 stars, youâ(TM)ll never be matched with that driver again. If a driver's average falls below 4½ out of 5 stars, they are removed from the Lyft community. It's our way of maintaining high-quality standards."

      Can anyone tell me what the point is of a 5 star rating system if anything below 4.5 stars gets you kicked out? All this is going to end up doing is artificially inflating ratings. Basically everyone will be a five star driver or a zero star. It makes no sense whatsoever. I would think any logical system would have at least 3 stratas of "Excellent/Well above average", "OK", and "Average, but would ride with again".

      It's like video game reviews in commercial magazines, no game scores below 80% so 80% becomes the new zero.

      So essentially, this "5 star" rating system is a 0.5 star rating system.

    • Thats the same kinda shit eBay has been doing with their DSR b.s. since the inmates took over the assylum, after Meg Whitman left. its a 1-5 scale and if you as a seller drop below about 4.5 you get hassled by eBay and can be prevented from selling. I started selling on eBay back in 1998 but when the current management started screwing it up, I quit.. Looks this outfit has the same grade of moron in *its* management.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For what I can see, you pay for the Lyft ride. That's a taxi, not a carpool. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    • Re:Sharing? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:21PM (#44189805)

      Yeah, the prices are definitely more taxi-like than rideshare-like as well.

      If you look at ride-sharing via places like Craigslist, payment is usually roughly on the order of the cost of gas, maybe rounded up. E.g. if you get a ride from SF to LA, a typical asking price is for you to pitch in $50.

      But the prices on Lyft seem to be on the order of $15-20 for a short ride within SF, which is more like taxi prices. At that cost you're hiring a paid driver, not pitching in for gas in a rideshare.

      • Re:Sharing? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:29PM (#44189861) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, the prices are definitely more taxi-like than rideshare-like as well.

        If you look at ride-sharing via places like Craigslist, payment is usually roughly on the order of the cost of gas, maybe rounded up. E.g. if you get a ride from SF to LA, a typical asking price is for you to pitch in $50.

        But the prices on Lyft seem to be on the order of $15-20 for a short ride within SF, which is more like taxi prices. At that cost you're hiring a paid driver, not pitching in for gas in a rideshare.

        the price is not the distinctive thing.

        the distinctive thing is simply if the driver would have made the trip regardless. if the driver makes the trip because of the cash, then he is a hired driver...

        • by fyngyrz (762201) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:50PM (#44189975) Homepage Journal

          No, the distinctive thing is that you're paying for a ride. That's a service.

          Not saying that the city/state whatever needs to be involved, but I *am* saying that to pretend this isn't a paid service to the rider is disingenuous.

          Suppose a taxi driver was thinking of going downtown to Bruno's for a good pizza slice. Turns around, heads down Broadway, there you are, waving your hand. You get in and tell him, Bruno's, please! Did that suddenly turn the taxi ride into not-a-taxi-ride? No, of course not.

          • by sjames (1099)

            What made it still a taxi ride is that if you told him "Anywhere but Bruno's", he would still take you where you wanted to go. It would be ride share if his response was "Nah, I was going to Bruno's".

            • by fyngyrz (762201)

              It would be ride share if his response was "Nah, I was going to Bruno's".

              No, it wouldn't -- because YOU are going to Brunos, and so you wouldn't go with him, you'd get your paid service from someone willing to provide it. There are plenty of taxi situations where the driver will tell you "no, I don't go there."

              The distinctive element here isn't what doesn't happen; it is what does happen. As I said, I'm not arguing for regulation (nor am I claiming any one way is better than another... that strikes me as h

              • by sjames (1099)

                There are plenty of taxi situations where the driver will tell you "no, I don't go there."

                It's still a free country, they can decline a fare. That's choosing NOT to offer taxi service.

                Are you claiming that all of the office carpools out there are taxi service?

              • There are plenty of taxi situations where the driver will tell you "no, I don't go there."

                Not here in Boston there aren't; not if the destination is inside the city limits. Refusing to take a fare where they want to go is cause for losing your license.

                Sometimes the drivers do it anyway. There was a notable case a few years back where a driver refused a fare to Roxbury, a predominantly black neighborhood. Unfortunately for the driver, the person he turned down was a Boston city councilor. Oops...

            • by TheLink (130905)
              I've had taxi drivers tell me they didn't want to go where I wanted to go. They're taxi drivers not slaves.

              Maybe they think there'll be a bad traffic jam where I'm going and they won't make as much money. Or they're finishing their shift soon and want to be in a different area when they do. Or they want to head to another area which they think will make them more money.
              • by gl4ss (559668)

                I've had taxi drivers tell me they didn't want to go where I wanted to go. They're taxi drivers not slaves.

                Maybe they think there'll be a bad traffic jam where I'm going and they won't make as much money. Or they're finishing their shift soon and want to be in a different area when they do. Or they want to head to another area which they think will make them more money.

                actually their taxi license depends on them taking you where you ask.

                • by N1AK (864906)

                  actually their taxi license depends on them taking you where you ask.

                  It depends on country and region. In the UK a black cab style taxi is almost certainly licensed on the basis that they will go where asked. Other taxis can select fares but aren't allowed, by the rules, to pick fares up off the street. That means that to get a non-black cab taxi you would normally phone the taxi company and tell them where you are going, they are allowed to decline the job or charge a premium.

              • by sjames (1099)

                And so it turns out they were not offering you taxi service, so you had to find an on-duty cab.

                In many cases the driver is skirting the rules by picking and choosing. They may use various dodges like going off duty as you are telling them your destination if they were hoping to go the other direction near the end of their shift, etc.

          • No, the distinctive thing is that you're paying for a ride.

            It seems to me that the distinctive thing is that this is pre-arranged and negotiated with a specific driver.

            If I hail a taxi on the street, I don't know the driver, and I don't want to haggle over the fare. So it is reasonable for the government to regulate that, and set standard fares.

            If I arrange for a ride over the internet, I can independently check out the driver's reputation and negotiate the fare in the comfort of my home. So there is no need for government involvement.

            On a few occasions I have me

            • by gl4ss (559668)

              that is usual with taxi licenses, that you can't get do street hires unless you have a valid license.

              however, driving people around for money just for sake of driving people around for money is usually business licensed as well, but it's just a normal business license and not a taxi monopoly shit license you have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for(or hundreds of thousands)

      • by bakuun (976228)

        But the prices on Lyft seem to be on the order of $15-20 for a short ride within SF, which is more like taxi prices. At that cost you're hiring a paid driver, not pitching in for gas in a rideshare.

        Yeah, absolutely. Lyft, Sidecar, Uber - they're all really taxi companies in disguise, trying to pretend being carpooling services.
        An example of a real carpooling service is Avego, which connects drivers and riders with each other. The big difference to e.g. Lyft is that the prices are much lower, so the drivers only offset part of their cost rather than making a profit. That way, the service is really for regular commuters rather than for taxis. Drivers save a bit of money (and get to drive in the faster

    • Re: Sharing? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by maden (1855410) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:25PM (#44189831)
      But the state sees nothing of this money, and they don't like that!
      • Gas is free in the USA?

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Gas is free in the USA?

          I believe petrol is subsidised in the US.

          So the state loses money when people buy petrol and dont use it for a taxable purpose.

          • Subsidized? Only if you account the pentagon's budget as a hidden gas subsidy. Gasoline is pretty heavily taxed in the USA. It is outrageously taxed in Europe.

            American gas taxes aren't inflation indexed and haven't been adjusted to reflect current efficiencies. They no longer cover roads. They did, however pay for most federal ends of mass transit projects up to a decade ago.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:17PM (#44189779) Homepage

    It seems that the service has the taxi community in an uproar, who believe that Lyft ride-share drivers should be required to obtain the permits similar to those required of taxi drivers.

    Carpooling should have the same license as a taxi?

    What utter crap.

    • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:29PM (#44189867)

      I'd agree with you IF Lyft was a car pooling service. It is not. It is a service for freelance taxi drivers. This is NOT the same thing as car pooling.

      Lyft is much more like a taxi company than a carpooling connection network. They're just trying to pretend that they're not.

      • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:51PM (#44189985)

        Agreed. Its quite a bit different than Slugging [npr.org] that is/was popular in some cities.

        These newer programs have apps for ride matching, rating systems, and at least informally set fees. Its a regulation dodge more than anything else.

        Still, I would love to see a similar rating system for individual taxi drivers, because half of them don't bathe, 60% of them are surly, 5 to10% of them on any given day don't look remotely like the credentials hanging in the cab, and the vehicles themselves are filthy and often barely road worthy.

        • by bakuun (976228)

          Agreed. Its quite a bit different than Slugging [npr.org] that is/was popular in some cities. These newer programs have apps for ride matching, rating systems, and at least informally set fees. Its a regulation dodge more than anything else.

          Definitely - and they're not turnout out to be so successful at dodging the legislation after all. There are other companies that do "real" carpooling though, such as e.g. Avego. They've been getting a lot of attention during the BART strike now, with them offering to actually fly commuters to work by helicopter ( http://bartstrike.com/?page_id=1073 [bartstrike.com] ).

    • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:30PM (#44189871) Homepage

      That was my thought as well, but it turns out it isn't carpooling -- it's a paid service, and a fairly steep one at that.

      http://www.lyft.me/drivers [www.lyft.me]
      From the "become a driver" page: "Drivers are making up to $35/hr + choosing their own hours."

      It sounds like a taxi service, except Lyft doesn't have employees, doesn't have to pay unemployment or workers comp insurance, and then if there is an accident, will the driver's private insurance which most likely assumes you are not being a public carrier, pay out?

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        From the "become a driver" page: "Drivers are making up to $35/hr + choosing their own hours."

        It sounds like a taxi service

        Yeah, in which case, it's hard to see how they're NOT directly competing with Taxis.

        That gets into an entirely different category -- if it was purely ride-sharing/gas-sharing that's one thing, but this is something else.

        • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:54PM (#44189999) Homepage
          I agree with you. However, I don't see why taxis get to be a protected business. If I have a car and want to charge people to drive them around the city, why shouldn't I be allowed to? Sure there's some safety aspects about getting into a car with a stranger, but there's safety aspects with many things in life. You don't need a special license to watch over people's kids, you shouldn't need a special license to drive someone around town.
          • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:06PM (#44190043) Journal

            I'm pretty tired of people like the GP apoligizing for mafia shakedown tactics.

            That's all these protected industries are - state-created monolopies that get to use the force of law to enforce their turf and enrich a few taxi drivers, city employees, and politicians at everyone else's expense.

            If people are able to use technology to outmaneuver and bypass indefensible laws then good for them.

            • by turp182 (1020263)

              "Enrich a few taxi drivers"?

              The median income of a taxi driver in the US is around $32,000.

              http://www1.salary.com/Taxi-Driver-Salary.html [salary.com]

              Regulation is designed to enforce tax collection and nothing more. And I'm not convinced that's a bad thing, but I also feel that ride sharing, even for profit, should be legal (and that profits should be reported and taxes paid accordingly - good luck with that, I feel that the middleman should handle this, with the individual provider having to then report the profit po

              • by mjwx (966435)

                The median reported taxable income of a taxi driver in the US is around $32,000.

                TFTFY.

                Taxi drivers are one of the few professions where wide scale tax evasion is extremely simple, if you take every 2nd or 3rd job as cash you simply dont report that income (or at least the majority of it, if you're smart you report 20%ish of your cash earnings to prevent the tax office from being suspicious).

            • enrich a few taxi drivers

              LOL, rich taxi drivers are about as common as rich burger flippers.

              • To enrich is completely different from "to be rich". Either way, enrich was the wrong word to use. He should have used the word "benefit", so that pedantic assholes like you wouldn't detract from the actual conversation by bickering over inconsequential details.
          • by Rockoon (1252108)
            It isnt so much the licensing, but the enforced artificial scarcity created to protect the established.

            With Taxi Medallions going for as much as $1 million, is it any wonder that people willing to sell their services as a driver want to avoid the completely corrupt taxi industry?
          • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:25PM (#44190181) Homepage

            You do need a special license to run a day care service, and you should need a special license to drive people around unless you have a few million in the bank to pay for the damage you cause.

            Lots of people work in the underground economy to avoid taxes, and while there is some short term gain to be had be outside the system, there are reasons why the system exists. Some of it bullshit, like wars and NSA and so forth, but some of it comes out of the labor movement and is designed to help and protect workers. Things like unemployment and workers comp. By working under the table, when something goes wrong, you are really screwed. And big business is always looking for ways to shift the costs of doing business onto the worker. This is probably one of those ways.

            I don't know about every state, but one of the big games businesses try to play is telling people to become independent contractors. They think that if their workers are ICs, they won't have to pay workers comp premiums. Except the WA state statute doesn't talk about "employees" -- it talks about "workers where the essence of the contract is personal labor." So a while back, it was a popular way for taxi companies to shirk their responsibility by leasing cabs to drivers and making them independent contractors. Didn't work and they got spanked because the drivers provided only personal labor.

            In the case of this company, where they act as dispatcher arranging payment, pick up, drop off and act as boss (they'll essentially fire you if you don't live up to their standards) -- that's personal labor. And while you may provide your own car, that isn't good enough to get beyond the "worker" definition (been tried). So anyway, if this company is operating in WA and not paying premiums, it's going to get fined, and if a worker gets hurt while driving, they'll be on the hook for all the claim costs.

            • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:42PM (#44190283)

              Avoid starting a business in Washington state. Check.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              You do need a special license to run a day care service, and you should need a special license to drive people around unless you have a few million in the bank to pay for the damage you cause.

              These licenses are supposed to reduce the number of taxi-driving serial killers while making some money. And you can't justify the cost of the license if you let someone else do the same job without one. But if you don't believe in any kind of protectionism, then it's only reasonable to require a certain amount of insurance. Say, one MILLION dollars (pinky) per passenger, plus the normal liability insurance. That's what a massage practitioner has to hold, at least in California.

            • Have you ever considered _why_ people work in the underground economy to avoid taxes?
          • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JThundley (631154) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:15PM (#44190483) Homepage

            I work for a limousine service, here's just a couple of things I can think of off the top of my head. Insurance, which was mentioned earlier. If you get in an accident, is this guy's private not-for-hire insurance going to cover you? We drug test, I can't imagine an individual drug testing himself. We monitor employee's hours making sure that they get enough sleep and we see them in person when they pick up cars. We're able to judge their appearance to make sure they look fit and healthy enough to drive and are also dressed professionally. We wash our cars every day. We have an office that keeps track of things and can send another car to pick up a passenger should something unexpected happen. If you use Lyft and schedule a pickup and then your single and only driver needs to make stops or gets stuck in traffic, what do you do next? We check their DMV record and straight up fire people if they get into 2 accidents in too short of a time span. We do regular maintenance on the vehicles constantly to make sure they're in top operating condition. In this industry, you get what you pay for. We're a business and we're good at what we do and have streamlined processes for making our business run efficiently. If you go with some Joe off the street, he's going to be learning all of this from day 1.

            • by roman_mir (125474)

              I don't need you or anybody else to hold my hand when I want to get from point A to point B, and I mean all of this hand holding is completely unnecessary to me. I travel so much that I have tried almost every type of public and private transport there is, when I choose to go somewhere I choose how to get there, I don't need any government to do any of that for me, which is why I often use illegal cabs and such.

            • by Chelloveck (14643)

              Those are all reasons that the free market can take care of. Getting crappy taxi service? Cars are dirty, drivers are late and reckless? Switch companies. The good ones flourish, the bad ones die out.

              So why should taxis be a regulated service? What issues can't the free market solve? The number of taxis allowed can be limited by the city to aid with congestion and traffic planning. Special "taxi only" lanes or parking areas can be designated without worry that every driver will simply declare themselves

              • by JThundley (631154)

                A bad meal from a restaraunt will give you food poisoning for a day. A driver that shouldn't be on the road can kill you.

                • by Chelloveck (14643)

                  A driver that shouldn't be on the road can kill you.

                  That applies to any bad driver, regardless of if you're even riding with them. It's not an argument either way for whether or not taxis should be regulated differently from other private vehicles.

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Taxis aren't a protected business, but they are a regulated business. Anyone else wanting to enter the market has to follow the same regulations.

            And yes, you do need a special license to watch over people's kids. Ok to keep the neighbor's around for the afternoon, but if you are doing your home day care business then you will need to be licensed.

            • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

              by demonlapin (527802) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:47PM (#44190707) Homepage Journal
              The number of taxis in NYC is fixed, and the price of a "medallion" to operate one hangs around $1M (source [nyc.gov]). That's not an open-but-regulated business. That's a closed, protected one.
              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                Not all cities are NYC.

                • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

                  by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @08:19PM (#44191563)
                  Yet the city that we are talking about, San Francisco, also has a rigid number of Medallions issued out and thats it. If you want to own a cab in San Francisco, you have to buy a Medallion from an existing Medallion owner. There isnt an application process where you can apply to get a license and if you look like a great person to operate a cab you will get a Medallion.. its not like that at all, nor does anyone at all pretend that thats the way it is. The City doesn't. The Medallion owners don't.

                  If you examine all the large cities, you will find that fixed-number-of-medallion setup is overwhelmingly the norm.

                  ..and its not just taxi services that have this protected-from-competition arrangement, and often the laws are written quite plainly to state that the licensing board for the industry must consider the impact a new license would have on existing license holders.

                  For example, Connecticut just recently rescinded a law which protected moving companies [reason.com] after a long battle with an out-of-state moving company that wanted to do business inside the state but could not get a license to do so on the grounds that the additional competition would hurt the existing license holders. Note that the article I just linked to states "Unfortunately, the old standard will still apply to taxi, livery, and motorbus carriers."

                  So while you sit there claiming that not all cities are like NYC, well my friend entire States are exactly like New York City. What I really think is that you dont have a real grasp of the amount of government regulation there is in the country, nor do I think that you have even a casual understanding of the intent of nearly every regulation. I think that you are likely to be someone that has regularly defended greater regulation of things that are already so regulated that the current players dont have to worry about any competition, a situation that devolved into an event that got you to call for greater regulation to begin with (housing bubble? yeah, I predict that you blame the housing bubble on a lack of regulation.)
                  • by Trepidity (597)

                    Fwiw, limited taxi medallions were initially demanded by non-taxi-drivers and resisted by the taxi drivers, not initiated as a protectionist measure by the taxi drivers. The first medallion system was instituted in London in the 17th century, because residents and other drivers complained there were too many goddamn taxis driving around in poorly maintained vehicles causing accidents and congestion. So they set a limit on how many taxis could be driving around London, and instituted an inspection & lice

                  • by xaxa (988988)

                    I wondered what the regulation was like here in London.

                    The number of taxis isn't restricted. To drive the type you can hail on the street you must pass an extensive test of streets, junction and landmarks ("...at the north end of Kennington Road, SE1. In the terminology of The Knowledge, from here the rider can go "left - Westminster Bridge Road, forward - Baylis Road or right - Westminster Bridge Road". But as well as knowing the road names, they will be expected to know that in front is Lambeth North tub

                  • Yet the city that we are talking about, San Francisco, also has a rigid number of Medallions issued out and thats it.

                    Same for another city mentioned, Seattle, although they are licenses, not Medallions IIRC. I had a friend that was a taxi driver about a decade ago. The number of cab licenses are limited, weren't being increased*, and if you couldn't buy one from somebody who had one, you couldn't get one. Once you owned a license, you stuck it on a repainted used cop car like everybody else, loaned it to the cab companies who would lease it to the drivers. The owner of the license would make $400/day for doing nothing. Th

          • As has been pointed out, if the the driver's drunk and car wreaks and you're hurt, are your medical bills paid? Can you be sure the driver is going to charge uphold his end? Couldn't he get there, realize you're about to be late for an Airplane w/o time to call, and then charge more?

            Right now it's self regulating because it's new, and there's a lot of venture capital in the system making that work. But give it 5 or 10 years after the VC funds run out and those same VCs want their ROI and corners start b
          • by timeOday (582209)

            If I have a car and want to charge people to drive them around the city, why shouldn't I be allowed to?

            Evidently there are no reasons at all, since otherwise they surely would have forced their way into your head while you were typing out your rhetorical question.

          • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Informative)

            by blackest_k (761565) on Friday July 05, 2013 @03:18AM (#44192841) Homepage Journal

            Well lets see what is wrong with that.
            first there is insurance. Ordinary car insurance is for social domestic and pleasure and driving to and from work.
            Carrying passengers for hire or reward is specifically excluded. Taxi insurance is around 10x more expensive.

            For a car to be a taxi it has to meet a more exacting standard in addition to the usual road tax and Mot there is also a Taxi inspection which is like the Mot test but to a higher standard. Taxi's also have to carry a certified fire extinguisher to meet the regulations as well for example.

            Medical this is more recent but just having a driving license isn't enough, you also now need a medical report and again that is to a higher standard. One reason why I don't drive a taxi any more.

            Then there is also the criminal record and background checks which covers everything even 'spent' convictions
            and anything the police have recorded about you ever.

            And yes you do need a license to look after children, as a taxi/ private hire driver to work on council contracts I had to be badged for that to gain approval to carry children & vulnerable adults. That includes personal interviews and a European Criminal Record check. Thats the same vetting procedure as a nurse or childcare worker or school teacher has to go through.

            That second badge can get suspended very easily if there is any complaint made. On some jobs there has to be an escort with the child. Once one child accused the escort of hitting him as he got into my taxi. Completely false charge as I would have seen it happen and kind of creepy too as you don't know why someone was suspended until the police interview you. you tend to think the worst, that the escort may have molested the child, and how would you know when your driving exactly what is going on behind you. Even though the escort was innocent they were suspended for 6 weeks with no pay since they are paid by the job.

            Of course once that kind of incident happens you get to realise how vulnerable you are if you are carrying kids without an escort. Then there are passengers normally drunk who can attack you and thats no fun believe me.

            So yes there is a bunch of regulation and licensing that has to be gone through. It's not there just to keep taxi drivers in jobs and there are times when you will spend a lot of time waiting for a job and you don't get paid if your empty.

            However perhaps the most important aspect of the regulation is insurance because if you are in a car wreck in an unlicensed taxi, there may not be any insurance at all and while you may lose your career a limb without the insurance you might find there is no compensation no help with medical bills and your life is ruined.

            Does this help answer your question?

               

        • If a friend and I alternate driving each other, we've still made a financial transaction and are competing with taxis. It's just a barter based transaction.
      • And they have a stupid gimmick and really annoying ads all over FB (at least if you are in Seattle)

      • and gas and other car costs come out of that $35hr.

        Also lyft likely takes a cut as well.

    • But let's step back a bit. I'm no Valley Visionary, so if I were setting up a business based on offering unlicensed hospitality or cab rides, I might ask myself a few questions first. And I may ask myself: why is it that every town and city I've ever been to has licensing requirements for people offering taxi services or overnight accommodations? Is there a global taxi cartel or a multinational bed-and-breakfast conglomerate enforcing its will on municipalities from Aberystwyth to Yellowknife? And if there

    • It's not carpooling. These are cars and drivers that would not be on the road without the service.

      It may not purely increase congestion - the riders might otherwise use a car of their own. But it's basically a taxi with 10x better service (in function, not just attitude), slightly lower prices, and total dependence on GIS for knowledge of local geography.

      There are a variety of reasons to regulate taxis, but the original one was that otherwise, taxi drivers would run a ton of scams. This isn't a problem with

      • It's a lot harder to run people around in circles when every cell phone has GPS built into it. Already told you the mileage and fare before you start.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A company out of San Francisco which advocates "ride sharing" and using a pink mustache as a logo? Some jokes just write themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If taxi cabs aren't regulated, we can't have food inspections! Or roads! Or firefighters! Go live in Somalia! There are no taxi cab regulators there.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Must be a guy. Probably one who never rides in a cab. Probably one too young to have a daughter or girl-friend.

      Your view will change over time son, probably the first time you put your girlfriend or daughter in a cab to the airport for the first time, and look with horror at the neck tattoos and filthy clothes of the driver. You'll be wishing for more regulation.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >You'll be wishing for more regulation.

        Nothing like creating laws from emotion. Look how well that policy has been serving the USA for the past 100 years.

        If regulation didn't work to keep undesirables from running the cabs, why not just try more? At some point it's bound to work, right?

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          Nothing like creating laws from emotion. Look how well that policy has been serving the USA for the past 100 years.

          Dude, do you have any idea what life was like for the average American in 1913? We're a hell of a lot better off now.

          And yeah, laws get passed on emotion. It may not be ideal, but that's democracy for you. People aren't computers, and wishing they were only serves to make you miserable.

  • LA's public transportation system covers a phenomenally large area, and is ubiquitous and cheap. I used to ride it all the time before moving to Chicago, where I'm still a little amazed at how much smaller and more expensive it is.

    I'm surprised any 3rd party transportation system can make enough money to survive in LA, but I'm not surprised by the cease-and-desist. Public transportation is kept cheap by subsidies and limiting other services. For instance, you can't hail a cab -- it's illegal for them to pul

    • by icebike (68054)

      I used to ride it all the time

      Right there is the root of the problem. The TIME it takes to get anywhere, with sometimes two or three bus/train changes, mismatched schedules and waits.

      I've a niece who is the queen of mass-transit, and seemingly has the entire DC route map and schedules memorized, even for places she rarely goes.

      I find Google Maps Transit is useful in some cities, but by and large public transportation only works for commuting, and visitors or any place out of the ordinary requires a lot of map and route study, or just j

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        True. Public transit is great for commuting, maybe getting to and from big events, and for low income people completely familiar with lots of routes. It's practically useless for tourists.

        • Depends. Just went to London for a week and found that Google Maps Transit was pretty fantastic. Obviously, you're going to need to be in a big city for it to work, but it's not like tourists are going to be trying to suss out transportation in out-of-the-way hamlets. We ended up taking the bus a lot more than the tube, both because it involved fewer stairs and because you actually got to see the city as you traveled. Total times were pretty similar - tube is faster but involves more of a walk at the end, b
        • by macshit (157376)

          Public transit is great for commuting, maybe getting to and from big events, and for low income people completely familiar with lots of routes. It's practically useless for tourists

          Of course this is an over-generalization.

          There are cities with good transit (Tokyo, London, etc), and there are cities with bad transit (most of the U.S.), and naturally transit in the former is a much better experience than transit in the latter.

          Tokyo, for instance, is a rail city (rail has a majority transportation mode-share

  • This will last until the first major accident where someone's car is totaled and their insurance company won't pay. Lyft provides liability insurance up to $1,000,000 which is great for protecting you against injury lawsuits but it isn't going to replace your car. Better have an honest talk with your insurance agent to make sure your vehicle is covered for this type of use. And I wonder if your vehicle would need to be registered for commercial use.

    • by tftp (111690)

      And I wonder if your vehicle would need to be registered for commercial use.

      It sounds likely, since you'd be using it for commercial purposes. Lyft, of course, has nicely isolated themselves from those problems - they only run a matchmaking service; the costs are borne by the driver. At $35/hr this is not that great, if you have to pay for gas and service out of that amount. In city you'd cover, on average, 30 miles within 1 hour, and that would be 1 gallon of fuel at $4. So you have now $30, and you are

  • I thought this story was going to be about SoCal Lyft cars overheating due to those giant mustaches blocking the airflow to the radiators.

  • The LA DoT is a bunch of fucking Nazis! [wikimedia.org] There, I said ir.
  • It'll just drive the movement underground.
    Well, sort of like BART.

  • It seems that the service has the taxi community in an uproar, who believe that Lyft ride-share drivers should be required to obtain the permits similar to those required of taxi drivers." It seems that the service has the taxi community in an uproar, who believe that Lyft ride-share drivers should be required to obtain the permits similar to those required of taxi drivers."

    We have freedom! Taxi drivers have the permits to prove it! If you don't have a permit you can't drive a car with someone else in it

  • Rideshare is an industry term in Transportation Demand Management. It refers (oddly enough) to any of the following modes of transportation:
    --Walk
    --Bike
    --Carpool
    --Vanpool
    --Bus
    --Train

    Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar are all well-aware with the misuse of the term and they defend is with the simple statement that "two people going to the same place in/on the same vehicle is a carpool." Detractors aptly point out that it's actually one person with that genuine destination with the other (the driver), being paid to take

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