A California Senate committee blocked a bill this week that would have stopped Uber and Lyft from employing the dynamic fare pricing known as "surge" pricing. The AP reports that the measure fell short by a single vote in the Transportation and Housing Committee and one can assume that a lobbyist from Uber likely had something to do with this.
According to ride-hailing companies, surge pricing motivates drivers to get out and collect fares, or to seek out fares in certain areas where demand is high and drivers are few. However, last year, the Chronicle argued that such a system might not be working, invoking drivers who flee when surges strike.
“If anything, we need to be loosening up rate regulation, not the other way around,” said Senator Ben Allen, who could have but eventually did not provide the final necessary vote for the bill to proceed. “Taxis absolutely are at an unfair disadvantage," he continued, "We need to be working to help the taxis out, instead of doubling down on a broken policy.”
In addition to forbidding surge pricing, the bill, introduced by San Diego Democrat Ben Hueso, would have compelled Uber and Lyft to share data with the state of California and called for stricter background checks on drivers. Recently, Uber settled with the District Attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco, who jointly challenged the company's so-called "safe-ride" fee and criticized the quality of its background checks
Senator Hueso's ties to the taxi industry, critics say, have undue influence over the bill. In San Diego, Hueso's brothers own USA Cab, a company once owned and operated by their father and for whom Hueso used to drive.
The stalled bill must come as welcome news to Lyft and Uber, whose legal battles on many fronts rage on. Another bit of relief: Uber appears to have reached a settlement in a suit filed by the National Federation of the Blind, one alleging that drivers refused service to passengers with service dogs. The Chronicle writes that the parties are close to an agreement, and Lyft is negotiating on similar issues, outside of court.