Despite a threatened veto, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday is expected to consider challenging a state decision to legalize app-based ride-sharing companies.
The California Public Utilities Commission acted last month to create a new regulatory scheme for firms such as Lyft, UberX and Sidecar to legally compete with taxis for customers. The so-called "transportation network companies" will be required to obtain permits, perform background checks and create driver training programs.
L.A.’s taxicab industry, long a political force at City Hall, contend that the new Internet-driven businesses have an unfair advantage because they are not regulated and inspected by the city. Last summer, dozens of cab drivers circled and honked outside City Hall, demanding that ride-sharing companies be banned.
But Mayor Eric Garcetti is a supporter of the new services, calling them an innovative and cost-effective alternative to taxis. He also said he would work with the city’s nine cab companies to modernize their operations.
Garcetti told a KPCC audience Monday that he "probably" would veto any city lawsuit brought to challenge the upstart operations, which use mobile applications to summon drivers willing to share rides for a fee that is often less than taxis charge. He didn’t specifically address a PUC appeal, which is an administrative process rather than a legal one. But Garcetti spokeswoman Vicky Curry said Tuesday he probably would not be in favor of that either.
"His position has been the same all along," Curry said. "He doesn’t want to do anything to stop these services from being available."
The council has twice delayed a decision on appealing the PUC's action. Mike Nagle, a deputy city attorney, said Tuesday the city may have have missed the opportunity to file an administrative appeal of the state action.
"The mayor has already indicated he’s going to veto it. He has two days to review it," Nagle told the council. "So we’re already going to be beyond the point where we can file" an appeal.
Councilman Paul Koretz, a critic of the ride-share networks, urged the council to move forward. Garcetti may not be aware of the potential problems, Koretz said.
"He tends to like new and innovative and high-tech things … but I don’t know that he’s looked at the downside and the risk," Koretz said. "I hope if we take this action, we are able to have some interaction with him and try to make that point."