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August 11, 2014

Start Walkin’: Jacksonville Orders Uber, Lyft to Cease and Desist

by Sam Ranard

News4Jax recently reported that the city of Jacksonville has ordered ride-share services Uber and Lyft to cease and desist its operations in Jacksonville. This order was given after the Jacksonville City Council announced it would issue a $500 fine to any person operating an unlicensed vehicle as a vehicle-for-hire. Several cities other than Jacksonville, have issued similar cease and desist orders to Uber and Lyft.
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Jacksonville Parking Division Chief Jack Shad informed Uber and Lyft that any drivers who pick up passengers for payment must have a valid for-hire driver’s permit issued by the city, register the vehicle as an active vehicle-for-hire and allow the city to inspect the vehicle. Uber and Lyft are designed so that a private individual can use their own personal vehicle to pick up patrons in need of a ride.Most cars used by Uber and Lyft drivers are privately owned sedans that have not been registered as vehicles-for-hire with the city.

We are still left with the question, “Why does Jacksonville want Uber or Lyft to cease operations?”

At first it appears as if the city was acting out of concern for its citizen’s safety when riding with unlicensed vehicles-for-hire. However, rider safety does not seem to be the city’s primary concern or purpose for issuing the cease and desist order. As the story develops it becomes more and more clear, the city wants their piece of the pie. Uber and Lyft are not paying registration fees for the vehicles being used by its drivers, Jacksonville is not being cut in.

The Jacksonville City Council has stated that it is acting in part to protect the taxi cab industry. Taxi companies pay the registration fees to the city – ride-share drivers do not. As Uber and Lyft gain in popularity, taxi companies lose business.

In other words, Uber and Lyft are successful = decline in demand for taxis = less taxi revenues = less taxis = less registration fees being paid to the city by taxis = less revenue to the city of Jacksonville= cease and desist.

I care about the city of Jacksonville. I support the city of Jacksonville. So the question must be asked, “What is in the best interest of the city and the people of Jacksonville?”

Riders generally report that the services offered by Uber and Lyft are far better than that of a traditional taxi. I used Uber for a recent weekend in Chicago and it was awesome.” Lindsay Moore of Cincinnati, Ohio said. “The most frustrating thing is when you need a cab and can’t find one. It’s also great that the drivers are rated – it gave me more peace of mind and it’s also an incentive for them to be nice! Also the fact that it pays automatically is not only convenient and saves time but it’s safer. Sitting in a cab for even 2 minutes fidgeting with your wallet makes you an easy target for anyone on the street looking for the opportunity.”

Many Uber and Lyft riders share Moore’s opinion. Many of the crimes involved with taxis and taxi drivers arise when it is time for the rider to pay. Problems arise when there is an argument over how much the ride should have costed or if the rider does not have enough money. This problem is eliminated entirely when using Uber or Lyft. Both services require payment to be made when you order a driver, eliminating any arguments between rider and driver at the end of the ride.

Nate Duncan of Washington D.C. said, “Classy cars, no guess work (where should I stand, how should I hale) and everything is paid for before you even get in the car. Cabs here will turn you down if you’re not heading in the right direction. Uber already knows where you’re going before they get to your door.”

Uber and Lyft also have higher hiring standards than most taxi companies. They run local, state and federal background checks on all drivers. Even prospective drivers with minor traffic infractions are often denied employment.

Geoff Groh of Jacksonville prefers Uber over taxis because of the overall enjoyment of the experience. “Regular cabs around here are super expensive, smell bad, and nobody knows where they are going. If you want to call a Jax cab, forget about it. If they rarely show up. And cab drivers across the country are always more rude and unpleasant than Uber drivers. The cars are always clean and the drivers are always very nice. They are usually young professionals looking to make a little extra money.”

Uber and Lyft also allow the rider to see a picture and profile of their driver before the driver arrives. Michael Hilton of Jacksonville said, “The cars are clean and drivers are always nice. You never get that sketchy feeling like you get in some cabs. Plus I can see the drivers profile and picture before he even arrives.”

It will be interesting to see how this whole thing turns out. Uber has instructed its drivers to continue operations in the face of the cease and desist order. Uber has stated that it will pay for any legal needs, tickets or fines issued to its drivers. Uber and Lyft offer a great service that puts pressure on the taxi industry to improve its performance. If Uber and Lyft continue to operate, I am sure you will see increases in the quality of taxis around your city. Check back soon for updates.

First update: Sacramento is now requiring its taxi drivers to pass an english language competency, drivers complain.

 

 

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