LAX To See Ridesharing Options In Coming Weeks
Officials responsible for consumer affairs are divided over today’s decision by the Los Angeles City Council to allow some new players into the exclusive, taxi- and limosine-dominated transport industry. Uber and Lyft, two private transportation network companies, have been approved to pick up passengers at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Uber and Lyft are private companies which claim to be part of the next generation of for-hire transportation, taxi-cabs for a world where the convenience of smartphones can replace the complications of corporate fleets. Their business model utilizes peer-to-peer ridesharing, where people who need a ride can get connected with drivers available to offer them a lift to their destination. All that is needed to drive for these companies is a valid driver’s license and a satisfactory criminal background check. Both the motorist and passenger receive a measure of payment protection, as all payments are handled through the company’s ride-hailing app. The success of this business model has seen it spread internationally, and numerous companies have launched with similar operations (a trend affectionately termed “Uberification”). Over 300 cities across the world now have ridesharing services available through such companies, including London, Paris, Warsaw, Toronto, Sydney, Tijuana, Seoul, Nairobi, Lagos, and Johannesburg. However, a number of countries like Thailand have declared such operations illegal.
The main issue at point is that background checks for their drivers are done through third party companies which only search by an individual’s name, and only go back seven years. Taxi companies under federal regulations, on the other hand, use fingerprint-based checks which trace a person’s complete criminal history. Opponents of the ridesharing companies’ claim to safety point to recent allegations that twenty-two of Uber’s drivers had serious, and even violent criminal histories. The most troubling of the offences, according to the allegations, include kidnapping and murder.
City Council was divided in their decision. The supporters of ridesharing companies emphasized the public demand for their services, and the opposition argued against their safety. Adversaries of ridesharing appealed to exterior authorities, calling on the California Public Utilities Commission to more strictly regulate all companies that follow a ridesharing business model. Votes were unusually split both on a motion to reject LAX’s agreement with Uber and Lyft, as well as an ensuing motion for its approval.
Additional complications arose when LAX stipulated measures in its agreement with Uber and Lyft to mitigate increased airport traffic. Proposed resolutions such as a “geofence” to restrict the number of vehicles within the airport complex met with objections from ridesharing companies for being “technologically difficult, if not impossible”.
Services are expected to begin within a few weeks.