City Desk

Taxi Commission Will Regulate Rideshare Drivers

Call it the Uber regulation fight, round 2. When ridesharing service Sidecar, which essentially lets anyone with a decent car and a clean record become a driver for hire, launched in Washington last month, D.C. Taxi Cab Commission chairman Ron Linton characterized himself as "surprised," but held back on regulating Sidecar. But today, the commission is taking action.

In an email to City Desk, commission spokesman Neville Waters writes that the commission has decided to regulate Sidecar vehicles just like sedans, a decision that could make it more difficult for Sidecar drivers to get on the road.

Previously, Sidecar was able to avoid regulation because its drivers are paid in "donations" suggested by the app, which Sidecar co-founder Nick Allen likens to paying a friend for a ride to the airport. Apparently, Linton disagrees.

Ironically, this is happening on the same day that Uber announced that it's going to enter the ridesharing space precisely because the regulation has been so loose. In an email, Uber D.C. general manager Rachel Holt described the commission's approach to ridesharing as "non-enforcement."

Update, 4:37 p.m.: Sidecar hasn't responded to a request for comment. Meanwhile, the commission released an official statement promising legal action:

In response to media inquiries, DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron M. Linton today stated that, after conducting a review of ongoing and proposed ride-sharing services, the Commission has determined these services and the drivers and vehicles associated with them, are public vehicle-for-hire services that must comply with District licensing laws and Commission regulations.  The Chairman said “We are concerned the private cars used to provide these services have only ordinary, non-commercial insurance that we believe may deny coverage to passengers in the event of an accident.”  These vehicles do not display the required commercial tags from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and these operators do not have licenses from the Commission, which therefore cannot verify their safety.  “The Commission will take legal action against any person knowingly flouting District law by connecting passengers to unlicensed vehicles or operators,” the Chairman stated.

Photo courtesy Sidecar

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  • Art

    The DCTC is a 20th century body that is not capable of dealing with 21st century issues in anything close to real time. God bless 'em!

  • DCTC SUCKS

    "...these operators do not have licenses from the Commission, which therefore cannot verify their safety."

    Can safety be verified for those that DO have licences from the Commission. Didn't the Commission admit last year they don't have accurate records of those who are licensed? F the DCTC.

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  • Chris

    DCTC is like the mob when it comes to travel options in the District. I have trouble getting a taxi at home when I'm trying to catch a 6am flight, but I never have a problem getting Uber to show up and on time.

  • Matt A.

    The fact is, riding with a stranger is a very safe activity absent any regulation, with only a very small percentage of bad people doing bad things to a passenger. Add to it screening by the Sidecar folks, and you further reduce the already low risk. And, if you're looking to government regulation as the means to prevent an extraordinarily small number of bad people from behaving badly some time, then a look at DC's taxi system shows that's not a solution.

    Rather, let's look at it for what it is: if a person wants to give a ride to a stranger and said stranger is ok with it, shouldn't that be allowed? The only thing Sidecar adds is a voluntary donation. And, regarding safety of unregulated ridesharing, how many cases of crime do we have resulting from the thousands of slug line passengers over the years? Any?

    I personally don't feel the government should be in the business of regulating whether a person is able to provide a ride to a consensual stranger, who may chip in for gas or provide some other compensation. DC, however, requires a business license for "any business activity"- which would include everything from this to blogs.

    Regarding the insurance concerns,Sidecar apparently provides guaranteed insurance coverage if the driver's policy denies a claim: http://www.side.cr/driver_guarantee

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