We’ve been covering the San Francisco-based ride-service companies Lyft and Uber for some time now, focusing on questions related to insurance and safety. Taxi companies and drivers in the city have been irate since these firms started taking a noticeable chunk of their business.
A 2013 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to let the companies operate in the state under less rigid rules than the locally regulated taxi business did not appease cab interests one bit. Lyft, in fact, has been pointing to California as a model for what regulation of ride-service firms should look like.
Uber was reported to be valued at $3.5 billion at one point last year. And Lyft, for what it’s worth, told TechCrunch last December that it’s “seeing its revenues grow at a rate of about 6 percent every single week ….”
These San Francisco companies have been exporting this new app-based, sharing-economy model of vehicular transportation all over the U.S., with a similar pattern emerging whenever they come to town: Local taxi interests hoot and holler, and local agencies and elected officials grapple with how –or if — to put the brakes on the unregulated drivers and vehicles who now traverse their cities carrying paying customers.
A handful of cities, like New Orleans, Portland and Miami, have banned the upstarts entirely. But around the country, industry leaders Uber and Lyft are expanding as quickly as they can, with regulators trying to play catch-up.