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Thursday, May 15, 2014

SF Airport Calls for Crackdown on Illegal UberX, Lyft, SideCar Drivers

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 9:40 AM


Last year's acrimonious battle between SF Airport officials and popular car-hire services supposedly ended in April, when the airport issued permit applications to five companies, four of which already had a greenlight from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The privilege came with stipulations. Drivers from UberX (aka Raiser), Lyft, Wingz (formerly Tickengo), SideCar, and Summon (formerly InstaCab) could tool along airport roadways, so long as they hewed to their agreements with both agencies. That meant securing the permits, first off, but also displaying proper trade dress, proof of insurance, and proof of a pre-arranged ride (the equivalent of a taxi waybill).

In other words, if these companies wanted the liberties afforded to taxi cabs, they had to follow the same rules.

To date, none of these TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) has applied for an airport permit. Yet, according to airport director John L. Martin, they continue to conduct business at the airport. In many cases, Martin complained in a letter to CPUC President Michael Peevey, the drivers arrive in unmarked cars, sans waybills. Some don't have proof of insurance. One didn't have a license.

Between April 16 and May 5, the San Francisco Police Department's Airport Bureau conducted a sting operation on illegal car-hire operators, handing out warnings to everyone they caught flouting the law.

Of 110 drivers cited, 101 contracted with UberX. Eighty percent of them didn't display proper trade dress on their vehicles, and one seemed incredulous, when admonished for it. ("Why should I advertise for them?" he reportedly asked an officer.) Four lacked proof of insurance.

Seven rogue drivers hailed from Lyft, one came from SideCar, and one from Wingz. Spokespeople from Uber and Lyft have yet to comment. A spokeswoman from SideCar said the company has advised drivers to avoid trips to SFO until a solution is in place.

Deeming the drivers' behavior unlawful and willfully ignorant of permit requirements, Martin asked the CPUC for help enforcing airport rules. He also asked the commission to forbid TNCs from ferrying customers to the airport, and to display notices on their websites that denied the airport as a destination.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel says the CPUC plans to hold a meeting in June with representatives from SFO -- and other airports throughout the state -- to hash out a plan. In the meantime, car-hire drivers might have to cut their losses; airport trips are among the most lucrative, and desirable, for any taxi service.

Here is the letter:

SFO Letter on TNCs

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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