UPDATE, MARCH 31, 4:39 P.M.: Wingz and Uber on Monday became the first ridesharing companies to be issued permits to operate (legally) at John Wayne Airport. They were the first companies to provide the documentation necessary to receive permits, explained airport public relations manager Jenny Wedge. Wingz started providing rides Monday while Uber's service started today.
As noted in the original post, some taxi companies permitted to operate at JWA opposed the nod to ridesharing companies, noting that because they are not regulated like cabs, they can undercut the cost of fares. In other taxi v. Uber news, the ridesharing company is being sued in federal court in San Francisco by four cab companies alleging the smartphone-based transportation network is deceptive by claiming it is “safer than a taxi.” Cabco Yellow in Santa Ana is among the plaintiffs. Uber labeled the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, “frivolous.”
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 5, 7:35 A.M.: Now that we can (legally) be picked up or dropped off at John Wayne Airport by an Uber driver, the question is will we be taxed on our bodily fluids.
A West Hollywood woman claims her $7 Uber ride turned into a $107 ride after she was charged a “bodily fluid fee.” Annie Pho claims she did not puke, pee, sneeze or do anything else to expel bodily fluids inside the car, although she does concede it could have gotten wet inside from rain outside. In any event, after KCBS contacted Uber, the Internet ride service refunded what it claimed was a $100 “cleaning fee.”
Meanwhile, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an agreement that allows Uber, Lyft and other such services to operate at John Wayne Airport–despite the fairness concerns of traditional cabbies. California Public Utilities Commission regulations state that Internet ride services may not operate at airports unless specifically authorized by the local airport authority. That would be the Board of Supervisors in Orange County, where members were keen to let the free market reign.
And so came the permitting process for what is known here as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), which include “ridesharing” services such as Uber and Lyft. “TNCs are a new and innovative business model that provides a popular transportation option for many of our travelers,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Spitzer. “It is important for us to find ways to accommodate this new technology.”
Supervisor Michelle Steel, whose district includes John Wayne Airport, made the motion to initiate the permit process. “It is important that we allow a free and fair market for these providers, but also that we take steps to ensure a safe environment for passengers,” she said.
But Larry Slagle, president of Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County, would also like to ensure the future of his industry. He explained that taxi companies know the TNCs are “here to stay” and cabbies won't fight that. But Slagle would like there to be a level playing field because TNCs enjoy lower overhead costs than regulated cab companies, which require extra insurance, vehicle inspections and background checks.
Slagle therefore welcomed Supervisor Shawn Nelson saying to cabbies, “We need you to tell us what's fair.” One possible change already being spitballed: allowing taxis to stop at curbs to retrieve passengers as opposed to being restricted to designated areas.
As for the TNCs, which can already drop off at the airport, the agreement calls for them to obtain permits to pick up passengers and pay JWA $2.25 for each ride. But this would be under an honor system because airport officials concede they have no way to tell the difference between friends, family members or ride-service drivers picking up and dropping off at John Wayne.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.