San Francisco International Airport officials recently issued cease-and-desist orders to six different smartphone application-based rideshare companies like Lyft, SideCar and UberX, ostensibly to protect the 44 million passengers who travel though SFO every year. We have blogged extensively about these rideshare services in recent months, as San Francisco and other major cities across the country try to determine whether or not to allow them to operate outside the rules and regulations imposed on limousine services, taxi companies and other passenger carriers.
We have written extensively about legal and regulatory problems for Uber, a smartphone application that helps people arrange San Francisco limousine and taxicab rides, but they and other services that arrange ride-sharing are facing new troubles with state regulators. One ride-sharing service called Sidecar, along with new a new arrival called Lyft, have received $20,000 fines from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the agency that regulates all for-hire ground transportation services in our state.
Not surprisingly, the founders of the ride-share services are crying foul about the fines, saying that they are facilitating a valuable service for their clients and the Bay Area.
"This is about community members who have extra seats in their car, sharing those with people who need a ride," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said. "It helps drivers cut the cost of owning an automobile."
Lyft and Sidecar help car owners earn a bit of money by arranging rides for people who need them. However, state regulators see this for-hire arrangement in a different way entirely.
"We regard these operators as essentially the same as limousine companies, drivers for hire," California Public Utilities Commission Counsel General Frank Lindh said. "We do believe they’re operating outside the law right now; they don’t have proper insurance, their drivers are not properly screened and so we do have concerns about public safety of these operations."
Admittedly, we have a biased opinion on this topic, but we agree with Mr. Lindh on this. Under state regulations, our Bay Area limousine service is a for-hire passenger carrier, and we must adhere to strict regulations about insurance coverage, proper licensing of our luxury vehicles and chauffeurs, safety equipment, regular maintenance for our vehicles and other rules. These are all in place to protect our guests, and, if you have rented a San Francisco limo, party bus or other luxury vehicle from us in the past, you know that we place the safety of our guests above all other considerations. If one of these ride-sharing vehicles is involved in an accident, the person receiving the ride could be put in a very difficult position.
We understand that someone needing a ride to the grocery store or doctor’s office doesn’t need one of our San Francisco limo rentals. However, as a locally owned and operated company and longtime residents of the Bay Area, we are very concerned about how ride-sharing services could have unintended consequences for riders. If you need a ride, call a friend, a cab or call us at NLS Limo at 800-339-8936 to rent one of our vehicles for as long as you need it. When you do business with a CPUC-compliant business like ours, you’re purchasing a lot more than just a limo ride.