When the Los Angeles City Council gave the green light for Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport last week, there was talk about streamlining regulations for taxicab drivers so they could compete on a more equal footing.
That might eventually happen, but in the short run, there’s likely to be more regulatory pain for taxi drivers and other transportation providers. Tucked away in the amendments that the council passed along with the motion approving ridesharing services was an order for the city’s airport agency to develop a 24-7 complaint hotline for all ground transportation services at LAX. No such hotline currently exists.
The impetus for the amendment by Councilman Paul Krekorian were anecdotes from Uber and Lyft passengers who say they’ve been harassed by drivers. But now, taxicab drivers, shuttle services, limousines will all be included in this hotline.
It gets even more high-stakes from there: Another Krekorian amendment says that if certain ground transportation providers get too many complaints, they could have their permit to operate at the airport revoked.
So far, taxi companies are welcoming these provisions.
“We have zero problem with a customer complaint hotline,” said William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab of Los Angeles, who has become a spokesman for local cab companies on the ridesharing issue. “Every cab already has a big sign inside with both a number to call at the company and at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.”
As for the prospect of having a license revoked if too many complaints come in, Rouse said, “We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
Though taxi companies remain opposed to ridesharing at the airport, cabs will still have at least one slight advantage under another rule OK’d by the council last week: While cabs can use the airport’s lower concourse, Uber and Lyft will be restricted to the upper departure level at LAX.
That means once passengers grab their bags and head out of the airport, they will only see taxis, limos and shuttles. To get to their Uber or Lyft pickup points, riders will have to schlep their luggage upstairs.
How much of an advantage this will give taxis remains to be seen. After all, most rideshare pickups will likely be arranged by smartphone before the passenger ever leaves the baggage-claim area.
Yellow Cab’s Rouse said it was a nonissue and that the bigger concern for cabs is the lack of curb space on the arrival level. But it was enough of a concern for Uber and Lyft that they both opposed the provision.
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