L.A. to require all taxis to use 'Uber-like' mobile apps by summer

L.A. taxi drivers have until August to sign on to a mobile ride app or pay a $200 a day fine

All taxicab drivers in Los Angeles will be required to use mobile apps similar to Uber and Lyft by this summer, according to a measure passed by the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission this week.

The order, passed on a 5-0 vote, requires every driver and cab to sign onto a city-certified “e-hail” app by Aug. 20 or face a $200-a-day fine. The move is seen as a way to make taxicab companies more competitive with rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft.

Los Angeles cab companies reported a 21% drop in taxi trips in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period the previous year, the steepest drop on record. Cab companies largely attribute the drop to the popularity of app-based ride services.

There are still lots of details to work out, such as what requirements officials will use to certify the apps and whether the city should approve one e-hail provider,  build one or allow for multiple options.

The city plans to shape those requirements through a working group, expected to begin meeting this spring.

According to the Taxicab Commission, fewer than half of Los Angeles taxi drivers use third-party mobile apps to line up fares, despite their widespread availability.

William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab of Los Angeles, says his company has utilized a mobile app for several years. The app, Curb, allows riders to hail and track a cab, provide payment and rate drivers.

“If our industry is ever going to get a chance to move passengers from Uber back to taxis, each one of these companies should have an app,” Rouse told The Times. “It’s a shame that the city had to mandate it in order for this to happen.”

Rouse, who is also president of the Taxicab Paratransit Assn. of California, says mobile apps are only part of the answer. Despite its use of Curb, Rouse points out, Yellow Cab of Los Angeles has seen a steady decline in fares.

“This is only one piece of the solution," he said. "I don’t think that this in and of itself is going to save the taxi industry.”

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Times staff writer Laura J. Nelson contributed to this report.

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