Until this year, when he became the president of the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission, Eric Spiegelman, a 38-year-old attorney, was perhaps best known as the producer of the long-running Web series “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” Now Spiegelman and his board have been asked by the city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, to take steps to “insure equal competition” in L.A.’s taxi industry—a formidable task, as cab companies attempt to fend off competition from mobile-phone-based ride-sharing applications such as Lyft and Uber. Local authorities across the country and, indeed, around the world have responded to the runaway success of these services by forcing them to operate under new regulations designed to match existing taxi policies—or by attempting to ban such services outright.
This is taking place in California, too—district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against Uber, alleging that the company misleads consumers regarding driver background checks, and that it overcharges passengers. (Prosecutors reached a settlement in a similar suit against Lyft.) But Spiegelman’s draft plan—which was composed after months of hearings, and will be presented to the Los Angeles Taxi Commission on December 18th—takes a new approach. It proposes to require L.A. cabs to become more Uber-like, rather than the other way around.
According to the terms of the proposed draft order, every taxi in Los Angeles would have to become accessible via a mobile application similar to the ones used by Uber and Lyft. These applications will require certification by the Taxi Commission, which can then specify things like pricing maximums and limits on hours worked in a single shift, and can perhaps even set up a rating and complaint system for passengers.
Read more in the New Yorker.