After a marathon packed hearing, a Los Angeles City Council committee late on Tuesday voted to uphold an airport commission decision to allow rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers from Los Angeles International Airport.
The council’s Trade, Commerce and Technology Committee’s surprising 3-2 vote before a packed chamber came at the end of a nearly five-hour hearing featuring scores of expert and public speakers.
With Tuesday’s vote, the only remaining hurdle before Uber and Lyft have complete access to LAX is the full City Council, which is scheduled to take up the policy next week. Mayor Eric Garcetti has already voiced his support.
Rideshare companies welcomed the council committee vote.
“This is a positive step toward bringing ridesharing to LAX and we appreciate the thoughtful debate that took place in today's hearing,” said Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson.
But taxi companies said the vote moves the city closer to allowing a deeply flawed policy to take effect.
“Each time the City Council has been given a chance to remedy the policy and level the playing field, the council has chosen instead to take a pass,” said William Rouse, general manager for Yellow Cab of Los Angeles and the spokesman for the nine taxicab companies currently operating at LAX.
The commission’s plan would require rideshare drivers to pay a $4 fee for picking up or dropping off passengers at LAX, forced them to use the airport’s upper departures concourse and limited the number of rideshare vehicles that can wait on airport grounds for fares.
The central issue during Tuesday’s marathon hearing: whether there should be more stringent safety and background checks of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar drivers as a condition to pick up passengers at LAX.
Uber and Lyft drivers and other supporters pushed for the right to pick up passengers at LAX, saying passengers needed more choice and competition. Currently the rideshare companies can drop off passengers but are banned from picking them up. They argued that their current background check procedures mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission are adequate.
Taxicab drivers and other opponents said more stringent background checks were needed, pointing to recent revelations that four Uber drivers recently ticketed at LAX had prior criminal convictions. LAX has become one of the few places in the city where taxi drivers can reliably find fares, and taxi companies have been outspoken opponents of allowing the rideshare companies to operate at the airport.
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