Lyft now allowed in NYC but as a fully-regulated livery service
July 27, 2014 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Regulators 1, Lyft 0 (or perhaps 0.5). After trying to launch its unlicensed "ride sharing" model in New York City, Lyft has capitulated to the regulators' demands and will instead launch as an ordinary livery car service -- using only TLC-licensed cars with TLC-certified drivers.

Interestingly, this is exactly the same course that Uber followed with the launch of UberX in NYC: it's an unlicensed ride sharing service everywhere else, but in NYC it's a regulated livery service with less fancy cars.
posted by MattD (42 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I take livery cabs all the time and honestly that system doesn't seem to be remotely as broken as the yellow cab system. I don't really see this as forced kowtowing to Big Taxi as the article makes it sound.
posted by griphus at 7:13 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be honest, the only non-yellow cab that I ever use is Carmel, when I'm going to the airport and don't want to deal with dragging my luggage to the corner to wait for a cab at 4AM. But when I have an unlimited subway pass for the month, as I do, I'm not really likely to ever get into a cab to begin with.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2014


But wait, I thought that of these 'sharing' services were all exempt from things like laws and regulations because internet and innovation?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:21 AM on July 27, 2014 [15 favorites]



But wait, I thought that of these 'sharing' services were all exempt from things like laws and regulations because internet and innovation?


And I'm going to use them as long as that lasts and probably after, depending.
posted by josher71 at 7:43 AM on July 27, 2014


Meanwhile here in Pennsylvania, the head of the Public Utility Commission (which regulates taxis) had no idea that there were any complaints about the completely useless Yellow Cabs.
posted by octothorpe at 7:44 AM on July 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile here in Pennsylvania, the head of the Public Utility Commission (which regulates taxis) had no idea that there were any complaints about the completely useless Yellow Cabs.

I have a feeling that this is not uncommon among officials in other cities as well.
posted by josher71 at 7:48 AM on July 27, 2014


NYC makes it VERY easy to complain about a yellow cab. I did it a few months ago after overhearing a cab driver make a racial slur at another driver. After I filed the complaint, I heard from the TLC every week or so while they did their investigation. After about two months, I received notice that the guy had plead guilty and received a fine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


looks like somebody just got disrupted
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:52 AM on July 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


The complaints here aren't about any individual Yellow Cabs, they're about the whole company and the crappy way that they do business.
posted by octothorpe at 7:52 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's still a place left on Earth where regulators regulate? Impossibru! From my experience, every time I ask for laws to be regulated, the answer I get is "it's not our responsibility to regulate. If you have a problem, get a lawyer" umm actually it is your responsibility to regulate the law, otherwise why bother making laws. Rant done.
posted by Yowser at 8:26 AM on July 27, 2014


Does "regulate" mean they have to have one of those taxi medallion things?

The ones that cost like $20k in NYC?
posted by CrowGoat at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2014


About $1M apiece and no the livery cab system uses a different and much less compromised licensing/certification system.
posted by griphus at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Taxi medallions are specifically for taxis that roam the streets looking for people to pick up. Everybody else doesn't need a medallion.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:29 AM on July 27, 2014


There's street hail livery cabs (the green ones) in the boros now and they don't require medallions either.
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on July 27, 2014


Green cabs are not livery cabs. They operate under TLC rules.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:44 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Learning Channel. Is there anthing it can't do?
posted by 1adam12 at 9:50 AM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


But wait, I thought that of these 'sharing' services were all exempt from things like laws and regulations because internet and innovation?

In most cases the taxis have a monopoly on being hailed from the street. You can't hail an Uber vehicle from the street. However you can request a pickup and have it happen so fast to make the whole hailing process irrelevant.

The taxi companies are shitting bricks because just having a street hail monopoly won't be enough much longer especially since someone with a decent service can get a cab out to you in less than the "20 or 30 minutes, who knows?" that the dispatch gives you. And you get to watch it come so you know it's on the way.
posted by Talez at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Learning Channel. Is there anthing it can't do?

Produce actual educational content?
posted by Talez at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2014 [14 favorites]


A friend of mine who runs a Houston-centric political blog has been following Uber and Lyft moving into the market in Houston and Texas generally. His most recent entry discusses recently-filed ADA lawsuits against Uber and Lyft. That's something I've wondered about for a while: how those services will deal with disabled, particularly wheelchair-using, riders. Most people who drive for a ride-sharing service in their own car won't have wheelchair-accommodating vehicles.

(The same activists are also suing Yellow Cab in Austin because they're so slow to send wheelchair-accommodating vehicles, so this isn't just an Uber/Lyft problem.)
posted by immlass at 10:00 AM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Green cabs are not livery cabs. They operate under TLC rules.

Not to be pedantic but its literally called a street hail livery permit.
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Every time I see them downtown I get irritated. Go away, cab that is useless to me! Stop tricking me.
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on July 27, 2014


they have to kill the medallion system. taxis have to be regulated a little less and the ride sharing services have to be more regulated.

the real kick would be if you could set up a ride sharing system that works on micro payments to every car owner. You pay 5 a month to sign up. Then when you're going somewhere you inform a computer of where you are and where you're going. you'd get an address of someone needing a ride no more than 2 blocks from where you're starting and no more than 2 blocks from where you're going. those people pay the system. at the end of the month you get a check. Key is mass participation.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2014


Green cabs are a hybrid. Manhattan south of W 125th Street / Central Park North / E 96th Street and outside NYC they are drop off only. JFK and LGA airports they are drop off and reserved pickup only. Every else in NYC they are anything: drop-off, street hail, and reserved ride.
posted by MattD at 10:43 AM on July 27, 2014


But wait, I thought that of these 'sharing' services were all exempt from things like laws and regulations because internet and innovation?

No, age and corruption will always overcome youth and skill.
posted by tyllwin at 10:47 AM on July 27, 2014


I can't believe how many people here are willing to sell out their own long term stability to save a few bucks in the present day. We need more regulation, not less. Uber and Lyft and Amazon and AirBnb etc etc...

They work by breaking the law. The solution isn't to get rid of the laws...
posted by Yowser at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


The solution is to get rid of the mafia and monopolies.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:58 AM on July 27, 2014


We need more regulation, not less

I'd say we need different regulation. I mean, I'm all in favor of vehicle inspections, and insurance requirements, for example. But a law that limits taxis to holders of medallions? Yeah, I'd be fine with getting rid of that law.

But I live upstate. It's not really my problem.
posted by tyllwin at 11:04 AM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


can't believe how many people here are willing to sell out their own long term stability to save a few bucks in the present day.

At least here, it's not about the money, it's about the access. Lyft and Uber will go to places and at times that Yellow Cab refuses to service for any amount of money. If you need a ride home from a bar at 1:00 AM and think that you'll get a regular cab, you're going to end up taking a long walk home in the middle of the night.
posted by octothorpe at 11:09 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Uber and airbnb aren't about saving money, at all, it's about quality.

Peer to peer services require a different set of regulations. Trying to shoehorn in a couple renting out their vacation condo into the same rules that regulate hotels is ridiculous. Same deal with uber and lyft. I think requiring insurance and taxes is reasonable, but adding in fees and regulations just for the sake of protecting entrenched business is awful.
posted by empath at 12:13 PM on July 27, 2014


I can't believe how many people here are willing to sell out their own long term stability to save a few bucks in the present day.

What save a few bucks? The lion's share of the profit goes to the leasing company. The drivers aren't making much. They pay the company to rent the cab then try to make as much as they can. If fares get raised so does the fee to rent the cab so the taxi driver doesn't get a wage increase. You don't get benefits and the median wage is somewhere around 10.50/hr including tips.

So yeah, Uber can't exactly get much worse than the status quo here.
posted by Talez at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2014


This is really, really dumb. Other cities should be following seattle's lead here of "ok, we'll back off until we can come up with actually good rules. Go crazy, and we'll watch what happens and figure out what needs to be in place"

I'm honestly shocked they're taking that route, but it's the right approach. The old rules aren't suitable, but you can't just arbitrarily come up with new ones instantly.
posted by emptythought at 1:26 PM on July 27, 2014


There's still a place left on Earth where regulators regulate? Impossibru!
Yes, it's called Not America
posted by fullerine at 1:29 PM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


At least here, it's not about the money, it's about the access. Lyft and Uber will go to places and at times that Yellow Cab refuses to service for any amount of money. If you need a ride home from a bar at 1:00 AM and think that you'll get a regular cab, you're going to end up taking a long walk home in the middle of the night.

Do Lyft and Uber really go to neighborhoods blacklisted by taxi companies? Or are we talking about getting home at 1am to a neighborhood where taxis go generally? The former I'd call an argument about access. The latter, not so much.
posted by hoyland at 1:45 PM on July 27, 2014


(That's really a question about how these services work. Do drivers select the rides they take? Or do they go on duty and get assigned rides automatically?)
posted by hoyland at 1:46 PM on July 27, 2014


hoyland: "Do Lyft and Uber really go to neighborhoods blacklisted by taxi companies? Or are we talking about getting home at 1am to a neighborhood where taxis go generally? The former I'd call an argument about access. The latter, not so much."

So far, I've not heard any complaints about Uber or Lyft not going to any neighborhood but it's only been a few months. Yellow Cab goes between downtown hotels, the casino and the airport and that's about it. They don't even like to go to rich people's neighborhoods because it takes them too far away from that circuit.
posted by octothorpe at 1:53 PM on July 27, 2014


Other cities should be following seattle's lead here of "ok, we'll back off until we can come up with actually good rules. Go crazy, and we'll watch what happens and figure out what needs to be in place"

I guess that's a reasonable reading of recent events. I haven't been sure what to make of it ever since they very rapidly repealed the regulations they'd put in place not long before.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:40 PM on July 27, 2014


Honestly, the thing I LIKE about UberX in NYC is that a licensed livery driver picks you up, not some random dude in his car. We forget that there was nothing stopping random dudes from picking people up in cars for payment in the early years of car driving. It's that it was realized that livery and cab licensing was a good thing. Lyft and Uber have not provided any good reason why this regulatory system is not a good idea.
posted by deanc at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Uber and Lyft didn't get their juice from people trying to save a few bucks at the expense of stability. They got it from people willing to PAY a few bucks to GET stability: the car will come where you tell it to, take you where you want to go without complaining and bitching about how you're inconveniencing the driver, and you will be charged to an existing account, tip included, so you don't have to deal with fumbling around for cash or counting on the cab's card reader to work. They will also not turf you out of the cab and hand you off to a buddy because they don't feel like going where you're going.

I started using Uber because D.C. taxis have the most inconsistent service I have ever seen in any business anywhere, not because I wanted to save a few bucks.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:58 PM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


> We forget that there was nothing stopping random dudes from picking people up in cars for payment in the early years of car driving. It's that it was realized that livery and cab licensing was a good thing.

Taxi licensing (in North America) has for so long been the domain of rent-seeking by the taxi industry and medallion owners that it's kind of hard to believe it was ever different. I'd love to read about some of the early history of taxi licensing, but I haven't seen too much of that in all these deregulation discussions.

My area is too small and suburban for interest from Uber and Lyft, but we too have a taxi medallion system based on population. We're also getting lots of urban growth, transit increases, etc., but yet a couple of years back the local taxi companies sought to reduce the taxi to population ratio and prevent new licenses from becoming available. Why? Because they can - licensing is an arcane thing that politicians are often happy to let the industry and the bureaucrats (in the licensing department, not in transportation planning) figure out among themselves.

There's a big difference between licensing that confirms that a vehicle meets some standards and a driver has a clean record, and licensing that aims to control supply.
posted by parudox at 10:33 PM on July 27, 2014


I wrote my last comment just before leaving NYC for a vacation in San Francisco, and the latter city IS one of those places where UberX is "random dudes with their cars", as opposed to NYC where they are licensed livery drivers with registered livery vehicles. I've twice used UberX in SF, and it has been fine. The drivers are friendly, the cars are in as good condition as a cab would have been, or (more likely) better , and the drivers are people who want to work driving people around for money with the cars they own. It works well... for now. I would prefer some kind of assurance that cars and drivers meet some kind of minimum standard and registration, but Uber and the individual drivers who work with UberX seem to provide an acceptable level of service. The trick is to make sure it doesn't fall below that threshold.
posted by deanc at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2014


The reason that regulation is so important for taxis is because it's got to be possible to make sure that terrible drivers can be blocked from picking people up.

What Uber (and Lyft) provides is a tight feedback loop. You get out of the UberX and rate the driver 3 or fewer stars? You'll never get that driver again. Rate him 1 star and bitch about him? Chances are you'll be contacted by Uber to clarify your problem.

A driver gets too low a rating on average and he'll be told to lift his game or be kicked out of the whole system. And they do get kicked out.

Anecdotally in SF a number of taxi drivers tried to become Uber drivers because of the shifting demand, and the vast majority of them didn't last 2 months.

Given a choice between government regulation of the quality of drivers, and the what Uber provides by allowing passengers to regulate the quality of the drivers. I know which I prefer. I take Uber whenever possible.
posted by Jerub at 5:37 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


As an aside and anecdote, getting taxis in St. Louis is even in the best of times somewhat incredibly difficult. I have no personal complaints about any of the taxi services except for the general availability issue. Whenever I have needed a taxi on a non-weekend non-busy night, I either am left ringing on the phone forever or I'm told one is coming that eventually shows up an hour later after I've figured out how to get home or just took a long walk even in inclement weather.

The main problem I have with taxis is the general condition the cars are in. Even though it is supposedly regulated what I've heard from mechanics (friends, customers, etc.) is that the cars are pretty much one pothole from falling apart because full repairs are too expensive.

Also, the fight over regulation with Lyft in STL is amusing considering how many unlicensed and regular cars regularly drive people for money even after the regulators have been informed of said car.
posted by lizarrd at 9:26 PM on July 28, 2014


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