Carpooling is one of the most popular services transport network companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar offer, but it faces a problem. Under California law, paid carpooling is prohibited.
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) is hoping to change that.
Introducing AB 1360 on Monday, Ting said the bill would change a Californian law written in 1961 that doesn’t allow passengers in a commercial ride to each be charged separately for sharing the ride.
“We have long encouraged public transit and carpooling to reduce traffic and air pollution,” Ting said. “We cannot extend this mindset to ride-sharing without changing a 50-year-old law predating the Internet.”
Transport network companies such as Uber, Lyft and SideCar launched their carpooling services in California last summer. Shortly afterward, they were notified by the Public Utilities Commission that existing law did not allow their carpooling business model. While the PUC did not outright prohibit TNCs from continuing their carpooling services, it recognized that the Legislature had to update state law to authorize multiple passengers to share rides and split fares.
Ting described the existing law as “archaic,” and said the new bill would be “win, win, win” for consumers, drivers, and the environment.
“[The bill] accomplishes what needs to be done, which is allowing multiple people to share a vehicle that are heading in the same direction,” said Lyft’s director of public affairs, David Mack. “I think there’s going to be pretty swift adoption of it.”
“In less than a year, thousands of California residents have helped get cars off the road, lessen congestion and improve our environment and now the California Legislature has the opportunity to embrace this innovation by codifying this service and adopting AB 1360,” said Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend.
Lauren Faber, the Environmental Defense Fund's West Coast political director, described the bill as "common sense" and praised Ting for introducing a bill that would ultimately benefit the environment.
AB 1360 is one of several Transport network company-, or TNC-, focused bills introduced to the California Legislature this session. It joins AB 24, a bill that increases the safety and background check requirements for TNC drivers; AB 886, a passenger privacy bill that requires TNCs to destroy personal data associated with terminated customer accounts; and AB 1422, which allows TNCs to participate in the DMV Employer Pull Notice System and check the driving records of its partner drivers.