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The CPUC's push to stop renegade ride sharing via non-regulated apps

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POSTED December 3, 2012 8:19 p.m.

Gas - as one billboard along Moffat Boulevard proclaimed last summer - is $1.10 per gallon.

That was the catchy marketing campaign of the government’s tireless effort to get us to ride share in order to reduce road congestion and air pollution. The bottom line of the billboard ad is clear. If we all share commute expenses we will all save money.

It seems the government, though, isn’t all that keen on ride sharing that they can’t have a hand in, help encourage or control in some form.

The California Public Utilities Commission now questioning the “safety” of strangers teaming up to share rides and related expenses if they do so using apps.

One of the CPUC’s targets is Zimride and its Lyft app that allows folks to e-hail a non-professional driver in San Francisco and pay a suggested donation. Zimride also has a ride sharing website that connects riders and drivers.

The folks who designed the Lyft app see it as a win-win. They see empty seats as an opportunity for the driver to get back some of the high costs of operating a vehicle. At the same time they are connecting those without wheels a way to get around. Sounds like ride sharing, doesn’t it?

Not so fast counter the CPUC bureaucrats. Lyft can’t be trusted to self-regulate public safety.

That’s a great line coming from the same folks who did such a dynamite job regulating PG&E and the public safety in a San Mateo neighborhood.

So what is the public safety concern?

Lyft makes sure participating drivers have auto insurance. That’s a better track record than the State of California, which has been entrusted to make sure all licensed drivers have insurance.

Perhaps there are statistics the CPUC can produce that shows regulated ride sharing - as in taking a taxi - is safer in terms of accidents per 100,000 miles as opposed to those who have shared expenses over the years via ride sharing.

And if background checks of drivers is now a public safety concern why hasn’t the state been doing that through its own ride sharing programs that are trying to do the same thing as the Lyft app.

As far as the “safety” conditions of vehicles of those involved with Lyft, when was the last time the CPUC inspected the taxi cabs of firms that serve cities such as Manteca?

And what about those who may use e-hailing to become renegade taxi cabs by earning a living through making connections with riders using the app?

Another firm that the CPUC has in its regulatory sights is Tickengo. That firm caps the amount of money that drivers can make through the app in a year’s time.

In places like Chicago and New York, regulators are falling all over each other to put in place rule to protect the taxi cab industry. They range from allowing only licensed taxi cabs to use e-hailing apps to requiring 100 percent of all tips paid via the apps to go to the driver. Also included is a requirement that drivers don’t receive any additional payment for e-hail riders so that they don’t simply pass up those who hail via old school technology standing on a sidewalk waving their hand in order to go for more money.

One would think the government would welcome e-hail apps. Imagine how they could connect Bay Area bound commuters in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon to effectively reduce congestion and the individual cost of commuting.

Better yet, imagine how much more effective in-city travel could be for those without vehicles  in Manteca  or elsewhere in communities with limited public transit.

Then again, one mustn’t encourage apps or other technology that allows perceived government functions, such as ride sharing and taking care of other individual travel needs to be done by the masses. That would, after all, make folks less dependent on government.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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