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Web-Based Cab Competitors Hit City Streets

by Melissa Bailey | May 5, 2014 4:13 pm

(34) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Transportation

Melissa Bailey Photo To get from East Rock to East Grand Avenue, I downloaded an app, tapped a smartphone screen, and tracked Alva Jeffreys’ Hyundai Sonata on a Google map until she showed up at the curb.

To return, I dialed seven sevens and jumped into a minivan with an “old school” Indonesian taxi driver named Yunus.

One trip, with a new Web-based service in town called Lyft, represented the future. The other, with an old-school taxi, represented the past—a past that some feel is threatened by the emergence of new, as-yet-unregulated smartphone-savvy car services sweeping the city and the nation.

Two new services, Lyft and Uber, recently debuted in New Haven. The services work like this: Instead of calling for a cab, customers take out a smartphone, drop a pin on a map and request a ride. The driver, who is not a licensed cabbie, shows up in a personal car and gives the customer a ride. The customer pays a “donation” and hops out. The two companies are quickly expanding across the country: Since its launch in 2010, Uber has spread to over 100 cities. And in just 22 months, Lyft has offered over 1 million rides in 60 cities.

Uber hit New Haven on April 24. So did Lyft. New Haven was one of 24 new cities Lyft expanded to on that day, bringing a new wave of drivers to the streets.

A “Pioneer”

Drivers like Jeffreys (pictured), a 29-year-old Bridgeport native who now lives off of Foxon Boulevard in New Haven. Jeffreys works as a part-time security guard at a school in Orange. She signed up last month to try out a second gig: taking passengers around town in her 1995 silver Sonata.

I met Jeffreys Friday morning. She showed up to give me a ride to 65 East Grand Ave., where the Independent had heard someone would be mounting a church steeple to knock down a bee nest with a broom.

To summon Jeffreys, I took out my Samsung Galaxy S4 and called up the Google app store. I downloaded the Lyft app. After waiving all sorts of personal privacy rights, including access to my contacts and communication patterns, I began to create the required user profile. I typed in a credit card number—a requirement of the service, and a key way the company keeps track of its passengers—and created an account.

“Congrats, you are now a Lyft Pioneer!” a text message announced. I learned that as an early adopter, I would get 50 free rides in 15 days.

I went to order my first “lyft.” Though the GPS on my phone was turned off, Lyft pegged my location within half a block through cell signal triangulation. I pressed “request a ride.”

Instantly, a little car icon popped up on a Google map, along with the photograph of my driver, Jeffreys. She was just seven minutes away.

The whole process flew by so quickly that I could barely get my boots on before she rolled up.

I had been expecting her car to bear the iconic fuzzy pink mustache that Lyft drivers hang on their grills. Jeffreys went incognito. She rolled down the window and greeted me wearing white Air Jordans and a gray sweat suit. I checked my phone: Her face matched the photo. It was her sixth day on the job. She was so new at the job, she explained, that she hadn’t had time to unwrap her mustache and strap it onto her car. She had found time to unpack other company-issued accessories, such as several phone chargers passengers can use for free.

Instead of putting me in the rear, Jeffreys welcomed me into her passenger’s seat—another feature of Lyft’s program, which touts a friendly customer experience. Hits from KC101 played softly as we made our way towards Fair Haven. Jeffreys said she is getting the hang of the job. So far, most of her passengers have been Yale students, she said. Just before picking me up Friday morning, she had taken a passenger from Chapel Street to Pepe’s Pizza.

As we chatted, Jeffreys took directions from her iPhone 5, which was clipped to the A/C vent. She missed her turn onto Humphrey Street and, following her iPhone, looped down Trumbull, and back on State, to get back to Humphrey—an error few seasoned cabbies would make.

Jeffreys said she was looking for a second job on Indeed.com when she came across Lyft.

“What is this Lyfting?” she recalled asking. She was “skeptical at first” because “it didn’t seem official.” She decided to check it out. She put in an application and got a call back. She met a Lyft manager at a Stamford Starbucks for an interview. She took him around in her Sonata so he could check out her car and her driving skills. Then she went through a criminal background check and a driving record check.

On Sunday, April 27, she hit the road. She said she started out strong, with four requests—including two people from California, where Lyft debuted. Jeffreys sets her own hours. She submits her availability into a computer system, doing split driving shifts between her evening security job.

She said she could see this turning into a regular, long-term job: So far, all of her passengers have been friendly and nice. She finds it fun to drive around town, and “it helps out with a little extra cash in your pocket.”

Jeffreys was asked if she sees herself as competition to taxi cabs.

“We would become a big competitor to regular taxi drivers,” she reckoned, because her service is “cheaper” and “more customer-friendly.” Regular cabbies don’t always want to chat; they don’t have you ride in the passenger seat; and they run the meter, she noted.

At the end of the ride, Jeffreys pulled over and tapped a button on her iPhone to indicate the ride was done. A screen popped up on my phone, too, with a suggested “donation.” The price is generated by the app, based on the distance and duration of the ride (see rates here). The trip cost me $10, paid by credit card (no cash allowed).

Not A “Fee”

Technically, the payment is a “donation”; passengers pay what they want, with a minimum donation of $6. Calling it a donation is part of Lyft’s philosophy, said national spokeswoman Katie Dally.

“Lyft is about creating community and strengthening community,” she said. “Lyft is really a neighbor giving you a ride somewhere. ... This is not a taxi service. This is not someone who’s giving you a ride for profit. This is someone who wanted to give you a ride.”

“We do pay all applicable taxes” on the money that exchanges hands, she said.

After I submitted my “donation,” a prompt popped up to rate the driver on a scale of one star to five stars. That’s one feature—common in other goods-sharing services, such as Airbnb—that aims to ensure that people don’t rip each other off. Jeffreys rated me, too, as we sat in the car.

Then, with no new requests for rides, she drove off in the direction of her home, passing a Metro taxi on the way.

I stayed to check out the bee situation at the church. I spotted a nest on a steeple, but nobody swinging any brooms.

Two guys drinking Sierra Nevada in a nearby construction van with Maine license plates said they didn’t know anything about the bees.

“Are you with PETA?” one asked.

I sat on the curb, took out my phone, and looked for a ride back to East Rock. I downloaded the app of Lyft’s competitor, Uber. Three searches revealed there were no UberX cars, no Uber “black cars,” and no Uber SUVs available to ferry me home. I waited a moment as a bee circled me.

I searched again. There were no Uber cars available. No Lyft cars, either.

Yunus Arrives

So I summoned a ride the old-fashioned way, by dialing seven sevens (now preceded by the inelegant 2-0-3). The call took 1 minute and 45 seconds. After 13 minutes, I got a text message that Taxi Number 372 was on the way. The driver, named Yunus, showed up in a minivan emblazoned with Metro Taxi’s hard-to-miss orange and white.

Yunus greeted me with a smile. When I gave him an address on Willow Street, he swung around in a confident U and headed in that direction, consulting only the map in his mind. Originally from Indonesia, he worked all kinds of manual labor jobs—in construction, at the New Haven Register—before switching to taxi-driving because of a bad back. Now, at 62 years old, he has been driving cabs for 20 years. I told Yunus I write for an online newspaper.

“I don’t do the Internet computer,” Yunus said. “I am old school.”

I told him about the new Web-based car-service program that people could summon from their smartphones, in which everyday citizens can drive strangers around town.

Yunus replied that the service sounds “dangerous.”

“If somebody have their own car, you don’t know if they’re psycho,” he said.

With Metro Taxi, on the other hand, “we are monitored by the company.” He said he passed a doctor’s physical, an FBI national background check, and a check of his driving record before getting on the road. He said he has higher class of driver’s license, class P. The P stands for “public service.” If anyone has a problem with his behavior, he said, they can call his company and get him fired.

He said his taxi is equipped with a camera, which is constantly recording passengers, in order to monitor any belligerence or crime.

He further said he would be concerned for the safety of an unwitting citizen who signs up one day to start driving strangers around. He has been robbed three times, he said. One time, as he was responding to a late-night call on Fitch Street, two gunmen came in from the side and held him up. They took everything—including the car key, he said. His car had to be towed.

“That’s the risk you’re taking with the public,” Yunus said. 

Yunus said he takes measures to keep his own customers safe, waiting in the car until they walk into their homes.

He said he isn’t threatened by the competition—he likes the idea of other people being able to make money.

“My concern is the safety of the people,” Yunus said.

Who’s Driving You?

Yunus added that for people who like to type into phones, Metro Taxi now offers text-based services. (The company offers three new options: hailing a cab through its Web site, through text-messaging and through a smartphone app.)

He dropped me off and bid me well. The trip cost $13.68, including a 20 percent tip.

 

Metro Taxi officials could not be reached for comment Friday. A trade association representing taxi companies nationally has created a website that summarizes concerns taxi companies have with their new, high-tech competitors. The website, called Who’s Driving You, attacks Lyft and Uber, citing concerns that “amateur” drivers in an unregulated business put passengers at risk.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT), which regulates taxi drivers, liveries and household movers, has no power to regulate companies like Lyft and Uber, according to spokesman Kevin Nursick.

“The way it stands right now, we really don’t have any regulatory authority over them,” Nursick said.

Lyft spokeswoman Dally said Lyft takes its own measures to ensure safety, including background checks, driving checks, vehicle inspections and ensuring proper insurance. And though the company is not regulated by the state, the user rating system provides a form of crowd-sourced regulation that is not typical of traditional taxi companies.

Uber and Lyft both said they don’t aim to drive cabbies out of business.

“Uber supplements the taxi industry with a better, safer, more reliable alternative,” offered spokeswoman Natalia Montalvo.

“We actually think that having more options” other than driving a personal car “ultimately leads people to take advantage of existing transportation options”—such as public transit and cabs—more often, Dally said.

“If people choose not to drive themselves” to work or out to dinner, they won’t be driving themselves home, she noted. “If they take one [form of] transportation in, they may take another option home.”

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posted by: mm on May 5, 2014  4:23pm

While the concept of Lyft is good, I would be wary of the insurance coverage carried by the individual drivers. In fact some insurance would be invalid when a passenger vehicle is used for commercial purposes. Calling the fare a donation may get around state regulations, but won’t hold up to insurance company scrutiny in case of an accident and a passenger’s claim.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on May 5, 2014  4:36pm

Yeah this sounds like a crime waiting to happen.

posted by: flash_demo on May 5, 2014  5:24pm

I enjoyed reading this story. Lyft sounds pretty awesome. However, after reading about old school Metro, I see it has its advantages as well.

Good story, good information.

posted by: anonymous on May 5, 2014  6:16pm

There’s no way that ridesharing will undermine taxi companies’ profits. 

If anything, it will get more people to give up their cars—something that is already happening within dense, livable communities like NYC, New Haven, and Boston. 

However, people will be asking government to regulate these types of activities once they see what happens vis a vis car insurance when crashes take place (there are already some anecdotes). 

The background checks and insurance coverages need to be adequate, which ultimately means that the fares may go up significantly.  But that’s a good thing too - people should have to pay for the cost of private automobile use, including the cost of crash investigations, and they should be able to have transit, walking, or biking options if they can’t afford it. 

Maybe car sharing options will help us to fill in some of the downtown parking lots with new development - and use that increased tax revenue to fund better public transit.

posted by: Jones Gore on May 5, 2014  6:23pm

Although I am very pro entrepreneurism and think the only way people are going to be able feed themselves is by working for themselves, this has be regulated for public safety.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on May 5, 2014  6:23pm

The regulation of cabs didn’t happen by accident; it was necessary. Sometimes circumstances change and once legitimate regulation becomes ossified and unnecessary. I don’t believe this is such a case.  There have been some pretty horrible attacks on women by gypsy cab drivers, the insurance concerns are certainly legitimate and there are safety features in cabs absent from a layperson’s auto. And just think about the potential for some ugliness if there is disagreement over the “donation”. For $2 extra I’d stick with the old tried and true.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on May 5, 2014  6:31pm

P.S. Its also a drive (pun intended) to the bottom of the wage scale. Its not as if there is a shortage of cabs and I doubt this will create new demand for cab rides.  It will simply put professionals who drive as their sole source of income out of work if they can’t compete with part time drivers desperate to pick up a few buck and willing to provide rides for squat. After all no minimum wage here.  I don’t see this as some progressive “share economy” thing.  I see it as the “walmartization” of the cab industry.

posted by: DingDong on May 5, 2014  7:53pm

I would be more hostile towards Lyft and Uber if Metro taxi hadn’t provided such terrible dispatching service to me so many times before.  I don’t know how many times I’ve called a taxi, been told a taxi is on the way only for one never to show up.  I stick with Ecuamex—-a small company and sometimes they are too busy; but if they say they are coming, they really are coming.

posted by: Walt on May 5, 2014  8:06pm

Right. mm


—-and these national operators will be no where near   CT if Alva happens to have   an accident while being a fake cabby ,and winds up with her insurance company justifiably refusing to cover the damages, and has to   pay some complainant almost everything she earns for the rest of her life for damages

CT should act to assure regulation of these plans before both drivers and riders get screwed

Editor, use a synonym if you wish)

posted by: anonymous on May 5, 2014  10:52pm

Carl: Comparing local, sustainable entrepreneurs to Walmart CEOs’ pillaging of the global economy while earning $30,000 per hour, is absurd.

posted by: SafetyFirst on May 5, 2014  10:55pm

Wow! I fear for young Alva Jeffreys! She’s trying to earn extra money by taking such a HUGE safety risk. She’s using her own car and personal insurance DOES NOT provide commercial coverage if she gets into an accident while using her car as a taxi service. Mr. Goldfield is right – the regulation of taxis evolved over time and with careful consideration for ensuring fair pricing, public safety and equal community-wide access.  Does Alva Jeffrey’s Hyundai Sonata have wheelchair-accessible access and has she been given the proper ADA-compliant training to transport those with disabilities? If not, does that mean that people who need to travel with a wheelchair or walker can’t use Lyft? And Lyft says it’s about “strengthening community.” Huh? While I’m all for innovation that creates new business options and consumer choices, entrepreneurship should NEVER come at the cost of public safety or discrimination. As for Lyft’s fee being called a “donation,” give me a break!

posted by: robn on May 5, 2014  11:16pm

1) Security and safety aren’t issues because drivers and passengers are vetted though background checks and peer reviews.
2) Insurance isn’t an issue (with Lyft) because they carry insurance.
3) The existing taxi system stinks. Its ineffective and as the NHI has reported in the past, it’s exploitive if drivers.
4) Its about time that the democracy of transportation is accomplished through trust building and merit with a goal of comfort and safety.

posted by: downtown dweller on May 6, 2014  3:34am

This is great news for all of us.

The resistance to these ride-sharing companies has come exclusively from taxi monopolies.  They’re playing the public safety card while trying solely to protect their earnings.  Consumers should be able to choose for themselves whether they want a modern, friendly service, or a cartel.  This is America, not Soviet Russia.

posted by: Bradley on May 6, 2014  6:21am

Carl, I would distinguish between safety, where there is a compelling argument for regulation, and fare-setting, where the need for regulation is less apparent. Riders need to know that the vehicles used to transport them are safe and that the drivers are not dangerous. So far, the ride sharing companies have taken steps to address these issues, but some state regulation will probably be needed.

On the economic side, I think Anonymous is right that in some cases ride sharing is a substitute for people driving themselves. In addition, as the proportion of carless or one-car households increases, there will hopefully be enough business to support both ride sharing and the cabbies.

posted by: yim-a on May 6, 2014  7:57am

In mid-December, during one of the first big snows of the year, I needed to take a taxi.  I waited on hold for metro taxi for near 30 minutes without success.  Ditto for the other local cab services.  And the dispatchers at 777 7777 have never been known for courteous and timely service.  I’ve lived abroad, in cities where most anyone with a car and moxie can pick up fares, and taken many a “taxi” without incident.  I hope this service does well and helps other new haven cab companies to up their game.

posted by: robn on May 6, 2014  9:19am

SAFETYFIRST,

Accessibility is a red herring. I’ve never seen a wheelchair accessible taxi in New Haven.

What critics fear here is that in some cases the private market might actually know what they’re doing and do it better than a highly regulated system. I write “highly’ because even with ride sharing, there is significant regulation leading up to the moment someone uses their service. Drivers must be licensed (have you ever noticed that a taxi driver is somehow more skilled at driving than yourself?). We pay police to constantly be on the lookout for faulty equipment and bad driving. All automobile construction, delivery and sale is highly regulated from the federal level to the local level.
And back to the subject of being fair to consumers, I’ve never seen a New Haven taxi in half as good condition as Ms. Jeffrey’s car. If cleanliness is too much to ask of taxis, they shouldn’t be asking us to give them a monopoly on service.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on May 6, 2014  10:00am

@anonymous- Jeez ....its obviously not Alva who I’m comparing with Walmart- the comparison is to the founders and venture capitalists behind Lyft and Uber. Just as Walmart skims profits off the labor of underpaid Asian workers these guys are skimming their vig off the labors of your so called “local sustainable entrepeneurs”  The “locals” will make squat and the money guys will cash out big time when these companies go public.

posted by: Eddie on May 6, 2014  10:04am

I know some people who have had very good experiences with airbnb, and I have enjoyed using the service myself.  Perhaps lyft could provide something equivalent, and who hasn’t had a bad experience with the cab companies in New Haven. 

Still I’m skeptical of this service.  I hate the idea of a donation and Katie Dally’s philosophy is junk.  I’m guessing she does not work for optional donations.  I’m guessing that the lyft owners are not working for donations.  Dally states, “This is not someone who’s giving you a ride for profit. This is someone who wanted to give you a ride.”  The problem with this is that someone in San Francisco stands to make a lot of money from the community spirit of others.  Plus who has the time and money to be driving around giving out rides?  These community spirit slogans could easily rationalize labor exploitation. 

However, it would be interesting to compare the average wage of a lyft driver to that of a taxi cab driver, factoring in all of the maintenance costs that the cab companies cover and lyft does not.  I honestly don’t know which driver would come out on top.  On one hand lyft has this silly donation system and it really increases the size of the labor pool.  On the other hand, it does away with a lot of management overhead costs and allows people to take advantage of their cars, which is capital that is accessible to quite a few people.  Of course, once a lyft system is in place it may provide a means for extreme exploitation, but that is hard to say given that it is so new.  Currently it certainly does seem that the lyft employees have no power in the company, but this isn’t much different from most modern cab companies. 

Lyft should not get an advantage by skirting regulations that ensure safety and accessibility.  But it could also be a positive force in pushing against outdated regulations.

posted by: Razzie on May 6, 2014  10:13am

“The way it stands right now, we really don’t have any regulatory authority over them,” Nursick said.

I find it incredible that the regulatory agency adopts the position that by calling a fee a “donation”, that takes the company out from under the intended regulatory scheme. In other words, if Metro Taxi adopted a “suggested donation schedule”, then licensure as a taxi company would be unnecessary.  Go figure. Same thing with banks, securities industries and real estate agents.

I share Goldfield’s concerns, that we are glibly passing over a history of problems and industry abuse that was the original catalyst for regulation in the first place. I have no problem with Alva picking up a few extra bucks, but I have no illusions that people like Alva will be the prime beneficiaries of these regulation evading schemes. Where does the money from “donations” go? My bet is that the credit card payments go straight into the “owner’s” bank account, and then parceled out to the drivers on some ridiculously low scale.

posted by: KDeeJay86 on May 6, 2014  11:49am

Check out this story about an Uber driver assaulting a passenger. The driver had a criminal record, had served prison time AND passed Uber’s background check. You telling me that’s safe? I’ll be waiting for a traditional cab and get a safe ride before using one of these rideshare apps.

http://pando.com/2014/01/06/exclusive-uber-driver-accused-of-assault-passed-zero-tolerance-background-check-despite-criminal-history/n

posted by: RNJeannette on May 6, 2014  11:54am

So Uber and Lyft rates are “donations”… how cute; can I deduct this donation from my taxes at the end the year?! In this article I see that Uber/Lyft “partners” are accepting “donations” for the same rate as the taxi fare of $13.68 with a 20% tip. The perk for me of using a traditional taxi is that this ride is legal with legal insurance rather than whatever goofy type of insurance Alva “might” offer. If I got in an accident in Alva’s car would her insurance company tell me, “Sorry, you’re not considered Alva’s ‘community friend’”. Would Uber and Lyft tell me, “sorry we’re not the driver, we just collect the $, you need to call Alva”?? This sounds like a scheme designed for the stupid college kid who might think “partners”, “donations”, and “extra money” are “so kewl”. I hope the colleges/universities and the D.O.T , are paying close attention, their priorities should be legalities and public safety; if not they’re in for some tragedies, we may find out that “community friends” and “partners” are capable of robbery, rape and stalking in a short time. I hope this ride is that meaningful to these college kids - one can not turn the clock back after the damage is done.

posted by: HuskiGirl on May 6, 2014  11:58am

Being a young woman of college age rideshare programs are alarming. Although Uber and Lyft say that their drivers go through a background check, but a “background check” conducted by the FBI and one done on the internet are very, very different. I personally wouldn’t feel safe with an Uber or Lyft “partner” driving me around – they could be a rapist for all I know. “Old school” cabbies go through FBI background checks, DMV approves them, they have a specific license, and cab companies are regulated. Getting into an Uber or Lyft car is the equivalent to getting into a stranger’s car or hitchhiking. Frankly, I refuse to take that kind of risk.

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on May 6, 2014  1:13pm

With respect to my friend Carl Goldfield and others, what you’re basically saying is that there should be a guild of drivers who control who gets to enter the field; solo practitioners, people who want to enter the biz on their own, get squeezed out. In most places, this artificial scarcity just means big corporate control: Metro Taxi in New Haven, or the big conglomerates in NYC, those that can afford the $1million+ taxi medallions. Ask the drivers what it’s like to work for THEM.

What’s more, I actually find that most “strangers” are pretty trustworthy; that most people don’t try to cheat me; and that a system like this one, based on some modicum of trust, can probably work well. But keep in mind: THEY HAVE THE DRIVER’S CREDIT CARD NUMBER. So random attacks from passengers on their drivers are pretty unlikely. And vice versa, since the drivers are registered with Lyft. In fact, isn’t this SAFER than cab passengers, who are pretty well always anonymous?

Anyway, Metro Taxi is slow to arrive, it’s a disaster when I try to book in advance, etc—all the problems you’d expect with corporate (near-)monopoly.

posted by: robn on May 6, 2014  1:33pm

Its unlikely that serial killers and rapist will wholeheartedly adopt rideshare programs to find victims because, unlike picking up a hitchhiker (or a cab fare for that matter), rideshare programs have a mile long paper trail that guarantees jail time.

For every rideshare crime (so far there’s a link to one) I’ll find you one perpetrated by a cabbie…here’s one.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/exclusive-alleged-victim-recounts-rape-cabbie-article-1.1772138

I would re-emphasize that rideshare programs leave a papertrail which cabs do not; cab rides are often random and undocumented.

Sorry; its just logic.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on May 6, 2014  3:43pm

With all due respect to my friend Mark Oppenheimer - it’s not about a guild it’s about some necessary regulation. I want my doctor, my plumber and my electrician to be licensed. Why? Because these are professions providing services which if performed incorrectly can lead to disaster (fires, illness etc.) Regulation of the profession reduces the danger.

It seems to me that problem you are having is with the poor regulation of Metro Taxi.  They need to have their license pulled if they won’t or cannot provide the service. But that doesn’t mean that the purpose of the regulation is misguided. 

And you don’t address the issue of what I think will be a race to the bottom for fares, with a few folks at the top becoming very rich. 

The only guild like organizations I’m aware of are some of the trade unions, where becoming an apprentice and obtaining membership requires you to have a father, grandfather and great-grandfather in the trade.  Sort of like Yale used to be.

posted by: Razzie on May 6, 2014  4:15pm

“...I actually find that most “strangers” are pretty trustworthy; that most people don’t try to cheat me; and that a system like this one, based on some modicum of trust, can probably work well. ”  - M. Oppenheimer

I too am a trusting soul, and don’t for one minute mean to imply that EVERY ride with a Uber/Lyft “partner will end in disaster. But unfortunately, all it takes is 1 tragedy to tip the scales. For instance, what happens when Alva’s auto insurer refuses coverage because she was participating in a commercial endeavor, and Lyft/Uber’s insurer declines coverage also because they have no coverage for the “partner” or the event. Who know’s what limits of coverage the parties have, and whether it meets CT standards for commercial carriers.

The point you fail to acknowledge is that the RISK of tragedy is too great for most reasonable consumers to take on an unregulated conveyance. And BTW..what happens when the user decides that the $30 suggested donation is only gonna get met at the $15 level. (Or the $0 level because service wasn’t as good as expected). There you have another tragedy in the making.

posted by: LookOut on May 7, 2014  8:42am

competition almost always improves service.  Assuming that the businesses have not considered insurance issues seems weak.  The real issue is that the cab system in almost all system uses regulation as an excuse to limit licenses.  This allows the regulators to charge huge amounts for the licenses (look up the cost of a medallion in NYC) and through scarcity and cost of licensing, creates high costs for the end user. 

Bravo to the new guys.  Let’s have some competition.

posted by: RNJeannette on May 7, 2014  12:31pm

A friend of mine at the D.O.T shared this CT State Statute Section 13b-101 which clearly states that a motor vehicle in livery service includes “every motor vehicle used by any person, association, limited liability company or corporation which represents itself to be in the business of transporting passengers for hire.” Yet, Uber & Lyft flagrantly don’t abide by the laws regulating taxi companies that ensure fair pricing, public safety and equal community-wide access; regulations to which your local transportation companies must and do adhere to.

posted by: SafetyFirst on May 8, 2014  11:16pm

Robn—You must not get out much, if you’ve never seen a wheelchair-accessible taxi in New Haven. Thanks to the City of New Haven’s Dept. for Persons with Disabilities partnering with Metro Taxi and other concerned disability advocates, Greater New Haven finally has close to 75 accessible cabs. For far too long CT’s Disability Community didn’t have the same freedoms and access to immediate response taxis as others who take such service for granted. I find it reprehensible that Uber and Lyft are shutting out our state’s large Disability Community, as well as the elderly and low-income folks who cannot afford a Smart Phone. They posture themselves as “strengthening community,” but it’s clear that they are discriminating against specific populations!!!! 

As for Uber and Lyft’s threat to our public’s safety, look at what happened in other states where they have side-stepped protective state regulations and insurance precautions: the tragic death of a six-year-old, sexual assaults, DUIs, drug trafficking, insurance fraud and more. Look at what NBC Investigators found when they went under-cover, utilizing ex-convicts who quickly and easily got jobs with Uber http://bit.ly/1rSEpoe. Do you need more evidence that these illegal ridesharing services offer “risky rides?”

Innovation should never over-ride pubic safety!

posted by: downtown dweller on May 9, 2014  4:37am

Razzie, the “risk” of these new services is pure speculation on your part.  But even if there were a greater risk than using a regular taxi, which seems patently false, other consumers can still choose whether to accept that risk on their own.  Clearly, Melissa Bailey didn’t think that it was unacceptably risky. 

RNJeanette, what is the “fair pricing” that the laws guarantee?  By “fair,” don’t you actually mean “not set by the market”?  If fares come down because of Lyft, either taxi drivers will keep driving, in which case they’re demonstrating the price is fair, or they’ll move to a more productive line of work, which will be beneficial for society.

All of the complaints against Lyft and Uber are just excuses for monopoly-style behavior in the guise of public welfare.

posted by: robn on May 9, 2014  9:26am

SAFETYFIRST,

Except that all people, including the disabled, aren’t really entitled to prompt service in well kept cars because that’s not what taxis in New Haven provide.

I can’t verify or deny your number 75 but if its true, that’s not 75 accessible cabs for New Haven; Metro Taxi touts its accessible service for 13 towns and cities, a huge population; it may be better than nothing but not ubiquitous as you suggest.

posted by: DingDong on May 9, 2014  3:26pm

@Safety First.  I applaud your concern about not discriminating against the disabled.  Why are you not equally concerned about discrimination against people with criminal convictions though?

posted by: SafetyFirst on May 11, 2014  11:08pm

RobN - Metro Taxi and Yellow Cabs fleets of wheelchair-accessible taxis, at long last provide immediate response, affordable service to CT’s large Disability Community. Ubiquitous? Definitely not! About 170,000 residents in Connecticut report having a mobility disability. It was a long and hard win to get CT’s first wheelchair-accessible taxi here in 2009, which unleashed pent-up consumer demand that led to both Metro Taxi and Yellow Cab stepping up to the plate and enhancing their fleets with ADA-compliant cabs. Given this progress, my point is that the last thing our State needs is a transportation service that flagrantly flouts the Americans With Disabilities Act by discriminating against people who need a wheelchair or walker when they travel. I find it ironic that Uber and Lyft posture themselves as being more progressive than “traditional” taxi service.

posted by: leibzelig on May 12, 2014  9:22am

We just returned from a trip where we needed a cab to the train station. We called Metro, and a car with space for two wheelchairs pulled up, with plenty of room for our two large suitcases. The cab was propelled by gas, not gasoline. I doubt that our luggage would have fit into a Hyundai Sonata. Very pleasant trip, $5 less than a Horizon cab that took us home from the train station. I have nothing but good things to say about Metro. So, friend RobN, there are more things in heaven and Earth than are…

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