Jeff Smith 7 a.m., March 30
Public Utilities Commission proposes legal framework for amateur cab drivers
Just weeks after the Metropolitan Transit System issued a warning about the dangers of unlicensed cab services, the California Public Utilities Commission appears set to implement a new proposal to legitimatize such “ridesharing” services as Lyft and Uber, which allow anyone with a clean driving record to undergo a background check and interview process to begin a taxi service using their own private vehicle.
Uber, which launched in San Diego a year ago using licensed limousine operators and a mobile-based app for users to request a ride, has since branched out via its uberX platform that allows participation from drivers without professional licenses to compete with newcomers like Lyft – the service says it has “several hundred” drivers in the San Diego region, both professional and amateur.
“All peer-to-peer uberX partner-drivers have undergone a thorough vetting process, including a full background check, driving record check and a city knowledge test,” Christopher Ballard, the operation’s San Diego general manager, tells the Reader.
Under new Commission guidelines, all drivers would have to undergo a licensing process that includes a criminal background check and carry $1 million per-incident insurance coverage, something both carriers say they already provide their drivers.
If the proposal is approved, which could happen as early as September, it could have a serious impact on the locally-regulated taxi system, which has been recently criticized for low wages, unsafe vehicles, and a burgeoning black market in coveted local taxi permits.