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Taxi Drivers Want Tough Regulation Of UberX And Lyft

Duncan McFadyen

The city of Charlotte is looking to regulate drivers for smartphone-based ridesharing services including Uber-X and Lyft. But taxi drivers say the proposed restrictions still give the companies an unfair advantage.

The city’s passenger vehicle for hire board faced a standing-room-only crowd of taxi drivers yesterday. The board was seeking input on regulations intended to level the playing field between taxi drivers and ridesharing services. Taxi drivers, including Mohammed Alawi, say city regulations take away their incentive to drive for licensed companies.

“Very soon, Charlotte is going to be without legal drivers with PVH," Alawi says, "because everybody is going to join Lyft, Uber, and everybody else.”

That’s because taxi drivers have to pay the city $130 for a license. Drivers for Uber and Lyft not only don’t have to pay, they’re not registered with the city. That would change under the proposed regulations. The city would also run criminal background checks on all Uber and Lyft drivers and inspect their vehicles.  Taxi drivers like these proposals. But, here’s what they don’t like: Uber and Lyft could still charge whatever they want. In other words, they can undercut the taxi drivers’ city-regulated fares. Ride sharing services’ rates are often cheaper, except during certain peak times.

“I go to the airport, there is Uber, I go to the street downtown, everywhere…there is Uber. You cannot protect me from Uber but you can charge me,” says Rashid Avid, who drives for Yellow Cab.

For its part, Uber says these regulations are unnecessary, because they’re already conducting background checks.

“We do a local, multi-state, and federal background check that goes back seven years,” says Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett.

Bennett says his company will wait to see how the ordinance evolves before deciding how to respond. In the meantime, city council wants the PVH board weigh in on the recommendations by September 5.