April 11, 2014, nearly six months after the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC) filed an application for rehearing on the CPUC’s Decision 13-09-045, the CPUC finally issued an “Order Granting Limited Rehearing“, denying most of the points mentioned in TPAC’s application.
Although our database has documented well over 5,000 TNC vehicles in San Francisco since July 2013 and over 3,000 have been confirmed active in March and April (compared with approximately 1,900 licensed taxicabs), the CPUC Order claims that “there is no direct physical impact or reasonably foreseeable indirect change to the environment”, therefore no environmental impact study was necessary under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before unleashing these thousands of vehicles onto the streets.
The CPUC denied TPAC’s claim that TNCs are providing taxi service, and therefore do not fall under the CPUC’s jurisdiction. One of the major reasons the CPUC claims TNCs are charter party carriers and not taxicabs, is that they operate on a “prearranged basis” and that the CPUC uses “the plain definition of prearranged”, re: “ordered in advance”. We beg to differ, as these services also describe themselves as “your on demand transportation”. In fact, a major reason taxicab service is regulated by cities and counties is because of the added congestion, pollution and wear and tear to the roads that is caused by “on demand” transportation, as drivers make themselves available by cruising populated areas. True “prearranged” transportation does not require cruising around empty searching or waiting for fares. Unfortunately, this commission see’s no reason for a time based definition of “prearrangement” and the definition remains murky at best.
The CPUC also argues that TNCs are not taxis because they don’t have top lights and are not painted like taxis and don’t use “taximeters”! These are requirements of vehicles that provide taxi service, not determining factors of whether it is providing “taxi service”. The Decision also argues that because the smartphone and app, which measures distance traveled and how much to charge, isn’t “attached” to the vehicle as required of taximeters, that they aren’t “taximeters”. However, it can also be argued that they ARE attached when affixed to the windshield. This is a ridiculous statement anyhow! They’re obviously using their smartphones as taximeters and they’re obviously providing taxi service!
TPAC argues that the CPUC’s decision to make special regulations to appease the TNCs is a violation of the Equal Protection Clauses in the US and California Constitutions. It creates two different sets of rules for two different groups that provide the same service to the same customers. The Order Granting Limited Rehearing claims this is not so, and that the two groups “are not similarly situated” because “TNCs are not taxis” and therefore “not similarly situated for the safety purposes of the Decision…”. This CPUC Decision reasons that TNCs are not “similarly situated” as required by the Equal Protection Clauses, because taxis are not under their jurisdiction and “Unlike taxis, TNCs are not subject to the safety jurisdiction of local agencies”.
It is hard to fathom how this commission and its staff, can use such logic and have so little understanding of this transportation industry.
TPAC had also cited the inadequate insurance requirements of TNCs. Under pressure from the Insurance Commissioner and recent negative press, the CPUC admited “the need to revisit the insurance issues” and stated that the Assigned Commissioner (President Peevey) had “already issued a Ruling directing further proceedings on the issue of adequate TNC insurance.” “Phase ll” of this rulemaking proceeding is not scheduled to begin before September and could take several months to complete. How much more fraud will occur and how many more claims be denied?