Uber vs. SFO: Will Mayor Lee take sides?

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NOTE: This post has been updated from an earlier version.

 Police at the San Francisco International Airport have been cracking down lately on unauthorized drivers working for Uber and other app-based “rideshare” companies. Drivers have been stopped and warned that it’s not legal to operate at the airport without required permits. But three rideshare companies have banded together to fight back – and now they’re trying to get Mayor Ed Lee to intervene on their behalf. 

On April 7, SFO sent out hefty permit application packages to Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and a couple other “transportation network companies,” as they’re formally called. To operate legally under recently passed state regulations and a new airport pilot program, the TNCs were directed to fill out the applications and obtain operating permits for their drivers.

But Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have so far refused to fill out the applications, because they don’t like the rules.

Government agencies are supposed to write rules in collaboration with the industry stakeholders who are being regulated, Uber spokesperson Lane Kasselman insisted in an interview with the Bay Guardian, but “that didn’t happen in this process.”

Instead, SFO just wrote up a set of rules for rideshares that are similar to those regulating taxis, without ever consulting rideshare CEOs, Kasselman said. In particular, TNCs disagree with a rule requiring them to turn over names and associated information of all registered TNC drivers. They’re also unhappy with a rule stating that they must provide locational data showing TNCs on airport property.

Those rules are unreasonable due to “privacy concerns,” said Kasselman. Uber issues iPhones to its drivers that use GPS to automatically track the movements of drivers and passengers in real-time, for billing purposes.

Rather than enroll in the pilot program and sort out their concerns from there, the TNCs have decided to turn to Mayor Ed Lee for help.

“Despite the potential impact to thousands of rideshare small business owners, any and all requests on behalf of TNCs to meet with the Airport and discuss the level of detail mandated by the April 7th permit package have been rejected,” representatives from rideshare competitors Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar wrote in a jointly signed May 23 letter to Mayor Lee. “We have been told we cannot have a conversation with the airport, even on clarifying questions, until we complete and sign the application.”

Ridesharing SFO Appeal_Mayor Lee 052314_FINAL

What do they expect the mayor to do about it? “We’re hoping the mayor will broker a meeting,” said Kasselman. “They refuse to meet with us,” he added, referring to SFO.

While SFO is reportedly not on speaking terms with the TNCs (except via police officers issuing warnings to their drivers), SFO has been in touch with the California Public Utilities Commission, to enlist its help with the crackdown.

In a May 9 letter, SFO Director John Martin urged CPUC President Michael Peevey to order TNCs to halt all airport trips until further notice, effective until this permit problem had been cleared up.

Has Uber given any indication to its drivers that they shouldn’t be conducting business at the airport? “I think our drivers are looking to their riders about where they want to go,” Kasselman said when we asked about that. Sounds as if nothing has changed there.

What this seems to be leading up to is a standoff, where the airport is hoping the CPUC will intervene to enforce the rules, while the TNCs are hoping the mayor will intervene to get the rules bent to their liking.

Will Lee step into the fray? Outlook hazy, try again later. (Lee’s office hasn’t responded to requests for comment, but we’ll update this post if we hear back.)

UPDATE: Lee's spokesperson Christine Falvey just responded to us with this comment: 

"Mayor Lee is a strong supporter of the sharing economy because of the benefit it brings to everyday San Francisco residents. Ridesharing is an innovative transportation alternative for many City residents and SFO customers and the mayor is supportive of SFO's proactive efforts to permit and regulate rideshare companies to ensure access, customer service and public safety. To your questions, Mayor Lee defers transportation policy decisions about airport transportation issues to his highly respected Airport Director John Martin and the Airport Commission."

Comments

off passengers at SFO.

Picking them up is more problemmatic as the cars need somewhere to wait. The regular cabs and limo services have that, but Uber and Lyft face the same problem as ordinary drivers picking up - nowhere to wait.

Best solution is the so-called "cell phone car park" which is free as long as the driver is with the car. It's about a mile north of the terminals, however.

Otherwise they have to use a paid car park like the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

On the bike ride home from work today, leaving the FD for Market, I saw a cab with a "Dump Ed Lee" bumper sticker on it. Nice to see opposition arising, but would taxi drivers opposing Lee harm or help the mayor?

Posted by marcos on May. 27, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

Uber and LYFT operate with out commercial insurance and provide no coverage to anyone involved in the accident. They should be banned not only from airport but from all the streets of all the cities. They cry to Mayor Lee instead of taking a responsibility for their business as everyone else. They claim not to be transportation companies. Why then they trains drivers, check drivers backgrounds, inspect the vehicles? They are a scam. They are just rying to go publi, get their money and run.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2014 @ 11:38 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:34 am

should have all the same rights as every other cab.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

Sounds like a taxi driver, who lost some fares to Uber, Lyft, and other companies. Here's a tidbit... When we call for a pickup, COME! Dont leave us waiting 40 minutes then block us from pickups when we decide to call another company and you eventually show up.
Instead of being upset at competition, and operating in a monopoly, work together on how you can maximize the fare sharing. Uber does this by enabling taxi drivers access to Uber anyway. Maximize the infrastructure together, as complementary competitors with a common goal, getting fares, making it easier to do so, and perhaps making it so people chose Uber and taxis more over Muni. Be innovative, rather than putting your foot on the ground and stomping. After I asked a taxi driver to make two stops (within my legal right to ask), he said, "I dont have time to drive you all over town", ironically, the two places were on the way from each other, and since I was paying not only per mile but per minute, I felt that his attitude alone was reason to never use a cab again. It was reflected in his gratuity, $0.00. When taxi drivers show some courtesy, professionalism, cleanliness and stop bitching, Ill switch from Uber.

Posted by WilliamD on May. 31, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

I'd have a dollar or two. Taxi companies deserve extinction.

Posted by Billy the Kidd on May. 31, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

Cab company owners thats who, middling city flunkies thats who, banks that finance medallion loans thats who, the city who extorts millions for medallions thats who,

not you, you are just the consumer, you don't matter in the grand scheme of things, you are here to serve the agenda.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

The cab company owners are put out? Uh... no, they aren't. When a cab doesn't show up to your house, it's not as if it magically disappears and doesn't take a fare. It's still out there and still picking up fares and the money is still flowing into the company's coffers. The person who is put out is the guy who doesn't get picked up and misses his flight, is late to his job interview, or doesn't meet his date on time.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... "On April 7, SFO sent out hefty permit application packages to Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and a couple other “transportation network companies,” as they’re formally called. To operate legally under recently passed state regulations and a new airport pilot program, the TNCs were directed to fill out the applications and obtain operating permits for their drivers.

But Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have so far refused to fill out the applications, because they don’t like the rules. "

"Mayor Lee is a strong supporter of the sharing economy because of the benefit it brings to everyday San Francisco residents. Ridesharing is an innovative transportation alternative for many City residents and SFO customers and the mayor is supportive of SFO's proactive efforts to permit and regulate rideshare companies to ensure access, customer service and public safety. To your questions, Mayor Lee defers transportation policy decisions about airport transportation issues to his highly respected Airport Director John Martin and the Airport Commission."

So will NOW these folks get a ticket? Seriously FOLKS are they BREAKING the LAW or just RULES? Oh, that is right just like AirBnD the LAWS do not matter in this new "SHARED" economy .... WHY DOESN'T the MAYOR ask to HAVE the LAWS ENFORCED?

Learn the WORD GAMES and get READY for ANOTHER FLEECING since the "TOO BIG TO FAIL" for the BANKS and NOW the "sharing economy." You know just like that "WE DO NOT TORTURE" and NOW per the latest ruling ..." we are FORCE FEEDING in order to preserve life" ... the life of an innocent falsely imprisoned human who we can torture by re-feeding while classifying it as lifesaving.
Sort of like the city denying me health care https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo&list=TL1P_aFCQben0heiVhEEPwg... and then like the "Jedi Mind Trick" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBYEr6HWuH8 telling me they did not by their hired PROFESSIONALS.

RULES? What does the LAW state? Are the LAWS being BROKEN and WHY NOT ENFORCED? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eN41g_veF8

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:39 am

Please kill yourself Jason. You're a coward for not doing so. Redeem yourself - get a rope.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... wow, thank you for your compassion and humanity and again proving my point. What was that the SF POLICE were going to charge the individuals on the street level when I believe a man was about to jump of a building ( I do not remember exactly how long ago) .... yet, here on the internet your cute childish ways where you do not have the courage to state your name illustrate clearly the inhumanity. QUESTION: Where is the OUTRAGE from others? Thanks for again confirming ....

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on May. 29, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

Opening up SFO to TNC pick-ups would further clog the airport's roadways, along with the surrounding communities, with unlicensed cabbies circling for fares. No thank you. Play by the rules or go home.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

traffic is constant. We're just quibbling over what that traffic is.

An Uber car is no different from a private car, because it is a private car.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

Want people to play by the rules? Then ask the airport to ENFORCE that all pick-ups wait in the cell phone lot, and wait for their call that their passenger has arrived. Better yet, if they must be closer, dont even have an arrival curbside, tell passengers to meet their rides in the paid parking lot area, charging $1 per 5 minutes wait access. Call it a day. Cause if you wanna get mad a private car is picking up or dropping off fares, then you need to be pissed off that regular citizens are doing the same thing.

Posted by WilliamD on May. 31, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

what laws and rules we need to obey and what we should ignore.

It would be much easier to let the Bay Guardianaughts do my thinking for me if they had a page telling me what to think about every rule and law from chimpan-a to chimpanzee.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

You have idiots in the city already driving and looking at their phones unable to find their client. Now you want them to try and find these guys at the terminals curbside? It would be a flat out nightmare for everyone. Much props to John Martin for saying F you to these douchy tech guys.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2014 @ 8:28 am

treated no differently from private cars, which often wait there if unless the cops are having a purge.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2014 @ 9:46 am

Those stupid radiator-blocking pink fuzzier might give them away.... Fine the hell out of 'em.

Posted by Sharon Thalove on May. 29, 2014 @ 10:19 am

Easy-peasy.

They could just use the free cell-phone car park at SFO.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2014 @ 10:34 am

I have seen more than one TNC with bald tires flying around San Francisco. That is so scary. Most of all the passengers have no idea the risk they are taking personally and financially by riding in these cars.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

You mean bald tired like MUNI buses?

Seriously, I would feel safer in an Uber car than a ratchet ass POS bus. I know the risk of the transit I take, and I am free to choose what works best for me.

P.S. I have been on two MUNI buses that have caught fire, many MUNI Metro LRVs that have broken down, one that actually broke the wires and ended up shooting sparks all over frantic exiting passengers. Let's not forget the many lying ass cabbies who have tried to take me the longest route to my home or claiming that their card machine is "broken", or best yet when they found out I live in the Sunset District, they drove off or told me to get out. No thank you. . . I will stick to Uber and Uber-X. I can hail them with my phone, knowing they are coming to me and that I can rate them good or bad. have fun with the failure of transit here in lovely SF.

Posted by ATLbred on May. 30, 2014 @ 12:03 am

with you on them and the one that broke the trolley wire with you on it, and... no... I'm just lying. Nevermind.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 30, 2014 @ 4:07 am

Impact to thousands of small business owners? What small business , I'm not getting that?

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

Refused to fill out the applications because they didn't like the rules, and now want a meeting with the Mayor to rewrite the rules as they wish ? That's incredibly self-serving and juvenile.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2014 @ 6:39 am

Like when bicyclists play by the rules by not riding on the sidewalk or stopping at stop signs? How incredibly self-serving and juvenile.

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Posted by Game of War Fire Age Hack illimite gold on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 3:06 am

Each time a cab (and CPUC registered limo) picks up at the airport, they have to pay a fee. This isn't about right or wrong, diminishing congestion, cutting pollution, John Martin being tough or any other misdirection: it is about LOST REVENUE and getting their fees.
The TNC model of dispatch and accountability (which importantly includes payment to drivers who show up but the passengers have already left, absent from the cab system and therefore partly responsible for reluctance of cabbies to venture to calls in outlying areas*) is superior to the cab system-except for the disabled and economically disadvantaged. However, that last assertion benefits drivers-less time spent, and eliminating run offs, robberies (still possible via a stolen phone) and no-pays.
I identify as a driver for money. I've been a cabby, dispatcher, and driven for Uber's various platforms. As a private entity, Uber can respond quickly to changing data, ie: surge pricing, a HUGE advantage for drivers. Taxis, regulated heavily by SFMTA, SFPD and SFO, cannot adapt without a Supreme Court edict.
Lastly, Ed Lee's clarifying statement reminds me of his pledge to only serve on an interim basis...

Posted by Sivart on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 10:43 am

He only said that, at the exact time he was asked, he had no intention to run, which was true at that time. He later changed his mind due to massive support.

A regular car doesn't pay a fee to drop off or pick up at SFO and Uber and Lyft cars are more like private cars than like cabs. They don't get a special rank like cabs do, so why should they pay?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 10:59 am

I cannot understand a driver's reluctance to pass up ANY FARE to the Sunset (unless nearing the end of a shift) Richmond et al. Trying to micromanage the arbitrary nature of cab driving can lead to serious frustration, anger and loss of income. In the time you lose screening each potential rider, you would have dropped off, gotten paid, and picked someone else up.
However, I didn't need a PHD to become a cab driver.
(I HATE asterisks with no explanation!)

Posted by Sivart on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 10:51 am

In the context of airport pickups, Uber and their ilk are "small business owners". They are there for financial gain and should have to wait their turn in the taxi waiting lot and they should have to pay the same fees that taxi drivers do when they pick-up fares at the airport. And who wants them mucking up the arrivals level waiting for rides anyway? They are NOT personal cars and should be required to use the lane for taxis and not for private cars. Ed Lee should be voted out if he succumbs to Uber, like he did with Twitter, SFMTA's attempt at money grabbing, and the general destruction of San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

Hi I have been reading a lot of comments and it seems that there will never be an agreement on the subject. However I would like to iterate that local cab companies such as peninsula yellow ( owned by SF yellow ) can pick up at sfo upon phone request without having to pay an airport fee. This is the same as any cab that is being phone requested, Sfo cabs charge 1 and half times the rate if over 15 miles. TNC's are cheaper and so it should be at the discretion of the customer. In essence TNC's only pick up upon request so whats the difference with that of other requested taxi's that pick up at sfo. Moreso if the TNC's are to be treated the same as Taxi's then I feel that they should be afforded the same driving privledges downtown such as taxi only lanes and taxi and and muni only turns.! I think that Taxis have monopolized the industry for far to long. The customer should be left with a choice. This is America ! Freedom of Choice. Thanks Sonny

Posted by Guest Sonny Steele on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

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