Outlaws No More: State Legislatures Stampede to Legalize Hail-By-App Entrepreneurs Uber and Lyft
Uber and Lyft hit a snag in Philadelphia
States and cities across America are opening their legislative and municipal arms to companies that allow customers to find a ride with an app, rather than calling or waving curbside for a taxi.
However, this municipal change of heart is not universal. The City of Brotherly Love, at least its Philadelphia Parking Authority, has very little affection for this new shared economy.
Uber and Lyft use smartphone apps to put prospective passengers in touch with independent drivers who have vehicles for hire. Uber, founded in 2009, is the larger of the two ride-sharing service companies. It has drivers in more than 200 cities and 45 countries.
Lyft, founded three years after Uber, is in more than 64 cities in America, but so far has no drivers based outside the United States.
Do Uber and Lyft drivers make a good living?
Uber and then Lyft were resisted for years because both companies were operating outside the sphere of state and city regulatory influence. Taxi companies hated them — and still do — because Uber and Lyft drivers don’t pay for city or state licenses and don’t have other expenses associated with running a brick-and-mortar business.
That didn't faze Uber and Lyft drivers. Entrepreneurs and revolutionaries at heart, they operated outside the law, under the cover of smartphone app connectivity, and became an irresistible force on the roads of America’s larger cities.
They are making money, too. Uber said in 2014 the annual median wage for its drivers working at least 40 hours a week was nearly $91,000 in New York City and more than $74,000 in San Francisco.
In just the last quarter of 2014, Uber paid out more than $650 million to its “driver partners” in the United States.
A study released by Uber in January 2015 showed 71 percent of its driver-partners said they were doing better financially now than they were before driving with Uber.
Almost half of the driver partners who responded to the survey are former taxi drivers who said they went with Uber because it freed them from traditional “shift work” that required a high cost of entry. These former taxi drivers said they were earning at least as much as they did in their old jobs, if not more.
Uber and Lyft making inroads in Arizona
Arizona’s Department of Weights and Measures has suspended all investigations and administrative hearings into Uber and Lyft.
"This policy is in keeping with Governor (Doug) Ducey's (R-Ariz.) agenda of supporting new and entrepreneurial-style businesses, while balancing that with public safety and consumer protections," Andy Tobin, the director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, said in a statement explaining the abrupt change of regulatory direction.
The decision came down from Phoenix the last week of January. It gave Uber and Lyft drivers a chance to cash in on the PGA’s Phoenix Open Golf Tournament and the biggest football game of the year, the Super Bowl.
Arizona state officials have not given final approval to hail-by-app ride sharing services, but thanks to their entrepreneur-friendly governor they are moving in that direction.
If and when they do drop the green flag, Arizona legislators would join a tidal wave of their fellow lawmakers giving new fuel to this entrepreneurial movement of rider-sharing companies and independent driver-partners.
Ride sharing makes its way to Virginia
Virginia state legislators gave their blessing to ride-sharing legislation Jan. 30.
Ride-sharing legislation was introduced in the state of Washington’s Senate the last week of January by Sen. Cyrus Habib (D).
“As someone who has used and relied upon these services, I know how important it is that consumers have safe, accessible and affordable options for getting around,” said Habib, who has been blind since age 8. “I am proud of the hard work and collaborative spirit shown by the many stakeholders I’ve worked with for months to craft this comprehensive policy. I look forward to working with interested parties as this bill moves through the legislative process.”
South Carolina hail-by-app drivers are still officially outlaws, but they are also still on the road while the state Public Service Commission ponders a decision on the fate of Uber and Lyft.
Nevada’s state Legislature is expected to open debate on the ride-sharing companies later this year. Uber and Lyft representatives have been meeting behind the scenes with legislative leaders hoping to reach agreement without an acrimonious debate.
"What they're saying is 'you have to look at us a different way,' and the reality is you have to because Uber covers two to three types of different industries," Sen. Scott Hammond (R) told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "However, just because you cover two to three types of industries doesn't mean you should not be regulated."
Uber and Lyft must be praying Nevada doesn’t turn into another Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Parking Authority will impound cars with big U's or glow-in-dark mustaches
The Philadelphia Parking Authority is playing hardball in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has allowed the operation of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft in most of Pennsylvania. But the cars have to be marked with a big “U” for Uber and glow-in-the-dark mustaches for Lyft.
The decision covers all of Pennsylvania, expect one of the state’s potentially most lucrative cities for Uber and Lyft drivers — Philadelphia, where the city’s Parking Authority has banned the ride-sharing service.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority has vowed to impound every vehicle with glow-in-the-dark mustaches discovered by PPA officers and tow truck drivers.
Lyft company officials told The Inquirer their cars would display dashboard “glowstaches” and pay whatever fines were needed to get the vehicles out of the PPA impound lot, which was immortalized on the A&E “Parking Wars” TV show.
Uber is taking a different tack. The “U” required by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission will not be displayed in Philly. Instead, Uber officials say they’re drivers would go undercover, driving without a “U” on their vehicles.
And so the revolution continues.