We here at SFist are noted fans of newfangled ride sharing services -- prompted by one too many cabbie no-shows and refusals to go drive to Glen Park or the Avenues -- but sharing services like Lyft and Sidecar are as problematic as they are useful. SFist reader Trevor Johnson wrote a thought provoking letter to SFist today, telling us why we need to rethink our views on ride sharing services. With his permission, we are reprinting Johnson's missive below:
I love your site and most of the reporting.
The one thing I am having a problem with lately is your support of Lyft and Sidecar.
These services are not what they attest to be or appear to be.
They are outright illegal taxi companies.
They are recruiting people to act as taxis without the requisite licensing or insurance. As of this letter Sidecar is completely uninsured (or insurable) and Lyft is claiming they have insurance, however that has yet to be put to the test.
Recently there was an accident where a Lyft driver hit a motorcyclist and sent them to the hospital, I have received reports of and witnessed lyft drivers driving intoxicated, and seen Lyft drivers pulling dangerous and illegal maneuvers on the street.
Taxi drivers are professional drivers with hundreds of thousands of city miles under their belts, intensive knowledge of city streets and each vehicle is inspected twice a year by the government of San Francisco and the SFO Airport Authority. These inspections insure that the three GPS tracking units, full motion video cameras, radios and other safety equipment is functioning and that the car is in compliance with DOT rules and regulations.
Yes, some cabbies are assholes, and yes, some cabbies don't know their way to certain places in the city, and of course some cabbies drive like crazed maniacs. Sadly though the more Lyft and Sidecar operate and undercut the legitimate transportation services the more often this will happen. How would you feel if you had spent countless dollars and hours getting to do your job for crappy pay and to be treated like shit, only to have someone come in that didn't do what you had to to get your job and do essentially the same thing for less money... making it so you couldn't feed your kids, or pay your rent.
Lyft and Sidecar are very dangerous for the city and the traveling public by putting un-licensed, uninsured, untrained, amateur drivers on the streets.
IE: If you are a passenger in a Lyft car and the driver has an accident that puts you in the hospital, the driver's insurance will not cover you because he was operating as a vehicle for hire (suggested donation or otherwise.. walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...) and he will likely lose all his coverage. Since you both agreed to Lyft's TOS neither of you can sue Lyft for damages leaving you to pay for your hospital bills and him to pay for the damage to his car or more.
This is flat out exploitation in the name of profits covered up under the guise of innovation. Uber is innovative, Taxi Magic and Flywheel are innovative, both are leveraging technology to modernize existing industries that require government oversight for public safety, and providing more convenience to the traveling public.
Here are a couple articles you should read, the first one is very telling about the truth behind Lyft and Sidecar, the second is a very well written piece about why both of these companies are out of line.
I would be happy to share with you about the inner workings of the cab industry and how it can change for the better. In this city its often understood and it can be better for both the passengers and the drivers if both start treating each other better, and are better educated on how to get a ride and give rides. There are a lot of really amazing folks in the taxi business and they are treated like shit constantly by a public that doesn't think cab drivers are human beings. A little kindness und understanding from each side will go a long way to bettering the industry for us all.
PS: this is a picture of the Lyft vs Motorcycle accident... the SFMTA and SFPD are already investigating this. As you can see by the rear door open, he had a customer in the car at the time.
UPDATE: Trevor is a licensed cab driver who drove and dispatched full time for 3.5 years.
UPDATE II: Lyft responds to criticism.