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Unregulated ride-sharing poses dangers

Lyft is operating nothing more than a dispatching service for unlicensed, illegal hacks ("Peer-to-peer ride-share app Lyft launching in Baltimore next week," Oct. 14). They are not unlicensed taxicabs because a taxicab in Baltimore is, by definition, licensed. The service that Lyft is offering is no different than picking up the telephone and ordering a taxicab. However, the dispatching service is where the similarities stop.

Taxicabs in Baltimore and Baltimore County are closely regulated by the Public Service Commission. The vehicles must be 2008 or newer as of the end of this year. They are inspected by the PSC twice a year at a minimum and by a Maryland State Inspection Facility annually. They are also subject to random inspections at any time. The fare schedule for a taxicab is set by the state, and the taximeters in the cabs are also inspected on a regular basis to prevent the public from being overcharged.

Taxicabs are required to carry far more insurance than a personal motor vehicle, with the accompanying far higher premiums. If a driver involved in an accident does not have insurance as a for-hire vehicle, the insurance company will deny coverage, which could be catastrophic for any injured passenger. A taxicab must have for-hire registration with the state. Ride-share apps are placing the riding public in danger every time one of these private vehicles is dispatched because of this lack of regulation, inspection, registration and insurance.

Taxicab drivers are licensed by the PSC in Baltimore or the Department of Permits and Licenses in Baltimore County and must pass a physical examination, a criminal record check and a driving record check on an regular basis, not just at the time they are hired. This lack of oversight is also placing the riding public in danger.

While taxicab drivers are not required to have a pink mustache on their car or give passengers a fist bump, as apparently Lyft drivers are, they are required to have a knowledge of Baltimore in order to safely transport passengers to their requested destination by the shortest route. Passengers also have a "customer bill of rights" which is posted in every cab. These rights include no smoking drivers, air conditioning, service animal accommodations, no cell phone use by drivers and cash receipts, among many others. Passengers also have the ability to appeal to the PSC, the regulatory agency, with any complaints.

Ride sharing apps provide none of this. They provide unlicensed, unregulated, and possibly unsafe transportation for a fee. The state must require this company be licensed and regulated in order to operate in Baltimore and Baltimore County. To not do so places the riding public in danger.

Clay Seeley, Pikesville

The writer is president of Reisterstown Cab, Inc. and operations director for Valley Cab Association, Inc.

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