Uber Car driver Sam Pevzner prepares Thursday to be dispatched to a call for a ride near the company's office on Sixth Street. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

City Council will consider revamping its approach to taxis and vehicles for hire at its meeting on Tuesday.

Changes could include the addition of curb space for town cars, Uber drivers, and other vehicles for hire that are currently excluded from freely utilizing these pick-up zones.

Additionally, they’ll consider asking city officials to amend the soon-to-be expired taxi cab franchise — altering, for instance, the number of taxicabs authorized to operate in the city. Council will also consider establishing minimal regulations for in-city vehicles for hire.

The Daily Press, earlier this year, inaccurately reported that these regulations would extend to operators of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.

City officials believe that the California Public Utility Code gives the state exclusive authority to regulate these ride-hailing apps.

Regulation is only being considered for drivers that don’t enter or leave the city with passengers.

“These are vehicles for hire that do not cross jurisdictional lines and would otherwise not hold a state permit such as TNC [transportation network companies, like Uber] or TCP [transportation charter permit vehicles, like town cars] would,” Acting Chief Administrative Officer Sal Valles said of the regulations. “Once a vehicle for hire operates in more than one city/jurisdiction it is required to hold a state issued permit (except for taxicabs which are required to have a city issued permit).”

Vehicles like Free Ride Santa Monica, which is like a souped up golf cart that takes tourists and residents around the city for free, are not currently required to have driver permits or minimum insurance or vehicle standards. Right now, all they need are business licenses to operate within the city.

City officials would like to establish regulations for these kinds of in-city drivers.

Currently the city allots 35 zones for taxicab pick-up and only five zones for all vehicles, including vehicles for hire, through a 15-minute parking zone.

“TCPs and TNCs are not authorized to pick up passengers unless the trip is prearranged, meaning that these for hire vehicles cannot legally accept a passenger who simply approaches the vehicle or hails the cab from the sidewalk or street,” city officials said in a report to council. “Therefore, zones that might be created for these types of vehicles would likely need to be set up as loading and unloading or for a short time limited parking depending on the location of the zone.”

City officials recommend that they come back with an ordinance regulating vehicles-for-hire no later than July. They also recommend amending the taxi franchise system — which the Daily Press will cover in-depth in tomorrow’s paper — during the same time frame. The five-year taxi franchise expires at the end of this year and city officials are recommending that council address renewals and vehicle allocations no later than September.


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