Washington D.C. Cab Drivers Protest Unfair Background Check Legislation for Uber and Lyft

By Michael Klazema on 10/13/2014

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have already taken cities like Chicago and San Francisco by storm with their freelance, app-based twist on traditional taxi or chauffer services. Now, it looks as if Uber and similar services will soon be making their way to Washington D.C. However, cab drivers in the nation's capital may well have to dragged kicking and screaming, or, more accurately, honking and braking, into the brave new world of ridesharing services

D.C. cabbies are not the first group of cab drivers to speak out against services like Uber and Lyft. In virtually every city where these services have set up shop, taxi companies have dealt with decreases in business. That's because an increasing number of people are opting out of using traditional taxis and opting into the Uber/Lyft system, which allows passengers to book rides via a smartphone app. Uber and Lyft drivers are everyday Joe's and Jane's who make extra cash by using their cars as taxis.

However, while most cab drivers seem to be against Uber and Lyft because they are stealing business, that's not the case in D.C. On the contrary, several Washington cab drivers have said that they would welcome the business of Uber and Lyft in Washington…but only if those businesses registered with the city's Taxicab Commission.

Currently, the Washington D.C. is in the process of drafting legislation that would allow Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies to operate in Washington without Cab Commission membership. The legislation would require ridesharing companies to conduct background checks on all of their drivers. IT would also stipulate insurance requirements for each Uber and Lyft driver.

To an outsider, that might sound safe enough: keep criminals out of ridesharing services, and make sure that insurance policies are in place in case of an accident. However, D.C. cabbies don't think the proposed legislation would be safe or fair. The Taxicab Commission has a laundry list of stipulations for its drivers and vehicles, regulating everything from vehicle safety to training for taxicab operators.

As a result, the City Council's attempts to set new rules for Uber and Lyft's instead of making the companies adhere to existing rules maintained by the Taxicab Commission, reeks of preferential treatment for the new companies. Worse, it essentially undermines the regulations that the Cab Commission has spent years designing.

D.C. cabbies agree that the double standard is a ridiculous one, and recently took to blocking downtown city traffic and honking their horns in loud protest. Quite simply, these cab drivers believe that all chauffer services should follow the same rules—whether they are traditional cab companies or new, "in vogue" services like Uber and Lyft.

From all angles, it doesn't really make sense why City Councilmembers would want to create new sets of rules for Uber and Lyft when those services could so easily be beholden to the same rules and regulations already documented for the Taxicab Commission. This situation is especially questionable given the fact that incidents in other cities, from violent encounters to rapes, ”have shown that Uber and Lyft's background checks aren't necessarily enough to keep passengers safe. The more in-depth regulations that would be imposed by the Cab Commission might be a good test case for seeing if there is another, better way to regulate these ridesharing services.


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