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Los Angeles taxi drivers will protest 'high-tech bandit cab' apps

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Hundreds of local taxicabs will drive in circles around Los Angeles City Hall during morning rush hour Tuesday to protest what they call "high-tech bandit cabs."

The protest, scheduled for 9 a.m., targets smartphone apps that allow users to summon a car with the touch of a screen. Taxi companies and  city officials say the app companies have not obtained the proper permits and are operating illegally.

On Monday, city taxicab administrator Thomas Drischler sent cease-and-desist letters to app companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, telling them drivers could be arrested on misdemeanor offenses and cars could be impounded for up to 30 days if they did not stop operating.

According to the Transportation Department, nine taxi companies have more than 2,300 licensed cabs in Los Angeles. Licensed taxis bear the city seal on the side of the vehicle and undergo regular inspections.

"The vast majority of taxi companies are law-abiding small businesses, and all L.A. cab companies are driver-owned," William Rouse, the head of the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Assn., wrote in a letter to the editor in December. "Who is the corporate bully here?"

The rideshare app companies say demand for their service is soaring as people try the informal, often cheaper taxi alternatives.

Lyft drivers, for example, are not professionals and use their own cars, outfitted with a signature pink mustache on the grill. Some drivers carry mints, bottled water or phone-chargers in their cars. Passengers can pay a suggested donation and can rate the experience on their phones.

The same companies have stumbled across similar problems in other major cities, including San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission sought to shut down Uber two years ago, and sent cease-and-desist letters to Sidecar and Lyft last fall.

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar could not be reached for comment.

 

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laura.nelson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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