Will Santa Monica Begin Regulating Rideshare Companies?


Santa Monica could move to regulate rideshare companies operating within the city’s borders later this, according to a report by the Santa Monica Daily Press.

While the Daily Press report gave no specific date, the Council will likely discuss the issue “later this year” as part of its review of the five-year taxi franchise system, under which the city allows five taxi companies to operate about 300 vehicles within Santa Monica’s borders.

And, it seems bigger rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber won’t be affected. According to the Daily Press report, city officials are more concerned with the possibility of smaller car-for-hire operations cropping up that operate exclusively in Santa Monica.

Business Operations Manager Salvador Valles told the Daily Press, “Pretty much anyone can show up in Santa Monica today, get a business license, and as long as they are operating within the city of Santa Monica — the moment they cross jurisdictional lines they would need licensing from the state — but as long as they don’t, they can slap a sign on their car, and they can drive around town, and they can pick you up. So we’re a little uncomfortable with that, for obvious reasons.”

As for the type of regulations the city will consider, Valles told the Daily Press:

“One of the things that we think would help discourage some of these fly-by-night, wild west operations — which as we continue to get busier and denser in the Downtown area, we start to see more of these operations wanting to come here — so we’d like to impose minimum insurance requirements and an operating permit of some kind that puts a few restrictions on exactly what they can do.”

And: “[W]e’d like to consider whether or not we should require that our taxi cab franchise use an app similar to an Uber style app,” he told the Daily Press, adding that that is something Los Angeles is currently considering.

With the proliferation of smart phones and ridesharing apps, companies like Lyft and Uber have been in the spotlight recently. Some argue that they aren’t as safe as taxis, they underpay drivers, and they have unfair advantages of traditional taxi services, while others see the new services as a means of connecting people to transit while decreasing reliance on their own private vehicles.

At a Westside Urban Panel forum last year, Santa Monica City Councilmember Pam O’Connor, then serving as the city’s mayor, joined other civic leaders to discuss the impact of technology on transportation, including the rise of ride share and real-time transit arrival information.

“They enable people to say, ‘I don’t need to take my car,’” O’Connor said. “Mobile technology gives them the confidence they need to get around. With real-time info, they can get over the fear of being stranded somewhere [without access to a car or a bus].”

Below, you can see Juan Matute, UCLA Lewis Center Associate Director and president of board of directors of the nonprofit that publishes Santa Monica Next and Los Angeles Streetsblog, discuss the role that city government — at least in Los Angeles — plays regulating Transportation Network Companies and how these companies help or hurt mobility overall.

Jason Islas
Jason Islashttp://santamonicanext.org
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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