St. Louis Wastes No Time Going After Ride-Sharing Services

Check your privilege! Because government regulation and licensing schemes are known to help the poor, right?Credit: Raido Kaldma / photo on flickrSt. Louis may not be the first city in America to go after ride-sharing services, but it may have been the fastest. Within 90 minutes of Lyft launching in the city on Friday, police pulled over and cited a driver in front of City Hall.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The San Francisco-based company ignored a cease and desist order from the city’s taxi commission when its smartphone app went live at 7 p.m. Friday. If you pulled up the Lyft app, dozens of little car icons dotted a map of the city.

City Alderman Scott Ogilvie, whose ward is on the west edge of the city, Tweeted that a Lyft driver had been cited 90 minutes after the service launched.

“When St. Louis chooses to punish @Lyft drivers, it doesn’t hurt the company,” Ogilvie said on Twitter. “It hurts the employees, who are St. Louis residents.”

Richard Callow, a spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, confirmed the citation. He said that enforcement officers were also handing Lyft drivers lists of registered cab companies that are hiring.

A spokeswoman for Lyft told the Riverfront Times the company would pay for all court and attorney fees on behalf of their drivers. The Times noted the police and the St. Louis Metrocab Taxicab Commission (MTC) worked together to patrol the “hipper” St. Louis communities looking for the recognizable furry pink mustaches on any cars. The commission’s director, Bob Oldani, said he’s worried about physical confrontations:

Oldani says he's concerned about violence breaking out between Lyft drivers and full-time taxi drivers who think Lyft is encroaching on their turf. The MTC already heard a report of cabbies threatening a car with a pink mustache in front of a downtown hotel, but investigators couldn't find any evidence.

Oldani took his anti-ride-sharing argument even further, essentially accusing Lyft workers of being privileged:

Full-time taxi drivers are a diverse group, but many, Oldani says, are recent immigrants who turn to driving full-time when their educational or professional qualifications don't translate to the U.S. workplace.

"These guys are trying to support families," he says.

But Lyft drivers are a totally different crowd, famous for driving part-time for beer money or to help pay off student loans. When Oldanii briefed police on Friday's assignment, he described Lyft drivers as college-educated people who work during the day and drive mom and dad's car on the side.

I am not sure why the word “but” starts that paragraph. Paying off student loans is not some sort of voluntary act of middle/upper-class charity, and if the drivers are college-educated yet need to use mom and dad’s car, doesn’t that indicate financial instability? There’s something particularly loathsome about trying to yell “privilege” at innovation that has developed because cronyism between the government and taxi companies has driven up transportation prices for everybody. Who does Oldani think the lower prices of Lyft services benefits? Or does it only matter that cab drivers are supporting families?

As you can see above, at least one city alderman is on Lyft’s side. Ogilvie argued in favor of ride-share innovation on Twitter over the weekend here.

Brian Doherty wrote extensively about the struggles of ride-sharing services to deal with attacks from government regulators and taxi companies protecting their monopolies here.

UPDATE: This afternoon, a St. Louis judge granted a temporary restraining order against Lyft and its drivers and ordered Lyft to disable its app in the city. More here.

(Hat tip to Mark Sletten.)

(Edited to fix the spelling of Oldani's name.)

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  • Almanian!||

    Well - if they're "raising families", then by all means they deserve a cartel. Sure. OK - got it.

    Fuck. this is a depressing HyR newsday. AKA, "Monday"....

  • robc||

    The crackdown on stuff like this and airbnb shows exactly what are rulers are.

  • Jordan||

    I think you meant it shows exactly what our rulers our.

  • robc||

    That too.

    I stuggle with .... Uhh... Homonyms? Homophones? The latter, I think.

  • dinkster||

    I don't say them the same. Are vs our (h*our*)

  • blcartwright||

    are and our are pronounced the same

  • Loki||

  • Steve G||

    *arghh!

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Sadly, despite how obvious examples like this make it, the reality will go over most peoples' heads, or be cheered on by those conditioned into reflexive obedience. It feels to me that the default attitude of the general public is if an activity is not expressly permitted then there must be a law against it.

  • Hoofddorp Haarlemmermeer||

    Our rulers are cunts?

  • SlV||

    looking for the recognizable furry pink mustaches on any cars

    It's like driving around with a big "bust me" sign on your car.

  • sloopyinca||

    Hopefully they'll replace the mustaches with this: http://www.dumbphotos.com/i-tr.....ersonally/

  • Jerryskids||

    looking for the recognizable furry pink mustaches on any cars

    Please please please tell me there's a group handing out hundreds or thousands of furry pink mustaches to anybody that wants to put one on their car. And please tell me there are hundreds or thousands of drivers saying 'Fuck Tha Police' by putting them on.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I feel so much safer now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "We're trying to get this person to do business the way everybody else does business," Olandi told police before Friday night's shift.

    Someone has never been in private sector business. Good tweets by the alderman, though.

  • Free Society||

    It's progspeak for "We're trying to stifle innovation and reduce competition for the benefit of those already in the industry."

    Perhaps the way everyone else does business if inept, inefficient and immoral. And perhaps there exists a better idea outside of the minds of our genius political overlords.

  • Hollywood||

    Scott - You have a typo, the man's name is Bob Oldani Deputy Director at Metropolitan St. Louis Taxicab Commission

  • Hollywood||

    Interesting fact, he was also a captain in the St. Louis Metro Police and he claims the following skills:

    Crime Prevention
    Enforcement
    Criminal Investigations
    Interrogation
    Public Safety
    Police
    Homeland Security
    Patrol
    Evidence
    Community Policing

  • Rich||

    "Crime Prevention" is a *skill*?

    WTF?

  • UnCivilServant||

    So is just "Police" apparently.

  • dinkster||

    Well clearly he forgot a line item of "Write Good"

  • Scott S.||

    Erg. The Riverfront Times has it spelled both ways. I should have checked another site. I'll fix.

  • Jordan||

    I've bought friends lunch for driving me to the airport before. Should they have been ticketed? According to derpgressives and their cronies: yes. Those wreckers just stole food straight out of the mouth of a hard-working cabbie!

    It's funny how derpgressives constantly bitch about inequality, yet they never seem to connect the dots in cases like this.

  • pmains||

    They have connected the dots -- just in an illogical manner.

    Rent-seeking by unions increases the standard of living for the union members. Therefore, everybody should join a union and embrace this higher standard of living. Sure, higher labor costs drive up the costs of everything else, but social justice.

    That's the argument made by the Philadelphia vandals who sabotaged the non-union construction of the Quaker meeting house. Apparently, Philadelphia's culture of unionism has created a high standard of living, which is why it's grown from ~1.6M residents 20 years ago to ~1.5M residents today. Quite the economic mecca.

  • Steve G||

    he described Lyft drivers as college-educated people who work during the day and drive mom and dad's car on the side

    Sooo, a lot of good this is going to do them:

    enforcement officers were also handing Lyft drivers lists of registered cab companies that are hiring
  • UnCivilServant||

    enforcement officers were also handing Lyft drivers lists of registered cab companies that are hiring

    I don't trust 'registered cab companies'. They have politico fleas all over them.

    In Nottingham, there was apparently two sets of cab companies - the "regulated" companies which got to drive the 'official' cab-shaped british cabs and the "unregulated" which drove regular cars. I used both. The difference? The "unregulated" driver spoke English.

  • Steve G||

    Clearly the unregulated companies need to report for deprivilegification

  • Sevo||

    "The San Francisco-based company ignored a cease and desist order from the city’s taxi commission"...

    Goodie.
    I hope they responded with "Up yours, pal!"

  • Brandon||

    He said that enforcement officers were also handing Lyft drivers lists of registered cab companies that are hiring.

    So while the private sector is getting cleaner, safer, more efficient and more beneficial, the government and its established cronies are pretty much back to impressment.

  • Free Society||

    Richard Callow, a spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, confirmed the citation. He said that enforcement officers were also handing Lyft drivers lists of registered cab companies that are hiring.

    The whole reason Lyft has a viable business model is because the cabby cartel is an inefficient and immoral entity. That we must live under this mercantilism is primitive and pathetic.

  • Jerryskids||

    That the taxi regulators are acting as procurers for the cab companies while stifling the competition that benefits the public speaks volumes about whose interests are served by the taxicab commission. Immoral and inefficient indeed. And of course you could say the same about just about any regulatory agency.

  • Free Society||

    I'll even take it a step further and argue that the same could be said for any institution funded by extortion.

  • ||

    "We're trying to get this person to do business the way everybody else does business,"

    ...by letting us wet our beaks.

  • sloopyinca||

    Richard Callow, a spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission,

    I just hope his cabbie license says "Callow, Dick".

  • NL_||

    The vast majority of cab service here in STL is focused on the airport route. I've wandered around downtown looking for cabs, but unless you go by a hotel on 4th St or find a cab stand near a stadium or the convention center, it's hard to just find a cab.

    Which is different from downtown Chicago, where I regularly found cabs. And when my girlfriend walked with me, cabs would often lightly honk at us - particularly at night if few people were otherwise on the street. I assume that cabbies believe women are more likely to want cabs or that boyfriends/dates will buy cabs to appear chivalrous. But my point is the cab market was reasonably active.

    St. Louis does not have a good cab market. Maybe services like Lyft can stimulate the general cab market and make it easier to live downtown. Which nominally is what every city politician supports, getting businesses and residents downtown.

  • SlV||

    So they can boot any car that doesn't pay $20 to park for 4 hours

  • dinkster||

    If the cab company's customer service is better than a random fucking stranger, than they shouldn't have much to worry about. Premium costs, premium service, right right?

  • Tman||

    Full-time taxi drivers are a diverse group, but many, Oldani says, are recent immigrants who turn to driving full-time when their educational or professional qualifications don't translate to the U.S. workplace.

    Glad to see they are finally admitting that their drivers are barely legal immigrants whose "professional qualifications don't translate to the U.S. workplace" meaning it's doubtful they are some extensively qualified drivers.

    It's funny how these "recent immigrants who turn to driving full-time" wouldn't qualify as drivers for Lyft yet I'm supposed to believe cabs are safer.

  • PapayaSF||

    At Easter dinner I met a woman attorney who is currently dealing with this issue in SF, on the "wrong side." The case involves a rideshare driver who hit two pedestrians, killing the kid and severely injuring the mother. His (regular, non-commercial) car insurance had a $30,000 liability limit. Her point was that people driving for profit should carry more insurance for instances like this. (Or, perhaps the rideshare companies should have insurance that covers their drivers?) She thought it unreasonable to expect every driver's policy to cover $1 million in liability (apparently the level she thinks would be adequate).

    I am pro-rideshare and anti-taxi-monopoly, but she may have a point. What say the H+R readers?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Requiring insurance seems wrong to me. Althought, if I squint I can see the case for it.

    But if 30K is good enough for normal driving around, I don't see why a million is required for professional driving. And I think the unstated answer is "EVIL PROFITS".

  • yonemoto||

    The rideshare operators carry $1M insurance policies for their drivers. It's actually not that onerous, because the drivers are background-checked and also have stellar driving records.

    I guarantee you taxis cause more net damage in terms of accidents than the rideshare operators. In large part because the rideshare drivers own their cars (granted many taxi drivers do too), and as any good libertarian knows, that means that there is a positive incentive to take good care of it and not get into an accident.

  • Waleed||

    I run a cab company in Minneapolis. There is no cap there. Any one with 5 cars can go ahead and start a cab company.

    We have an app. We have GPS. We have back seat credit card machines. We are just as into technology as Uber and Lyft.

    My biggest problem is the use of cartel and monopoly to describe us. My bigger problem is this: This blog fails to mention how in EVERY city, the taxi companies are merely saying let's compete on a level playing field. They are not asking regulate Uber/Lyft, but make it level in which ever way the Cities want to.

    I would think that a site dedicated to free markets would also encourage and fight for that. I have read countless blogs like this, and never has that argument been made.

    Which makes me believe that it isn't about a free market at all then.

    Taxi drivers go to college too. They pay for their kids education. They are just like Uber/Lyft drivers, except heavily regulated, I would think that your argument would be against regulation for all - and not just for the select few.

  • yonemoto||

    Because the regulations for taxis don't apply for rideshare services. The regulations pay for things like making sure the taximeter is calibrated and untampered, so that the taxi operator doesn't screw the passenger by having it tick every .75 mile instead of every mile. With the rideshare operators, you can email them and ask them for a full record of the trip if you think the driver has stiffed you.

    At airports, taxis have to pay extra to pay for the taxi line so that the passengers don't jump the queue. That's dedicated real estate and a paid attendant - a nontrivial cost.

    Taxis get special privileges in most cities, like special parking spots in front of bars, etc. So yes, if you want a level playing field fine. Perhaps a better solution would be for taxis to not be charged these fees and also not enjoy privileges granted by the city.

  • yonemoto||

    "We have an app. We have GPS. We have back seat credit card machines. We are just as into technology as Uber and Lyft."

    Do you rate your drivers and kick out the shitty ones? Do you have it so that a passenger can just exit the car without paying (and have it automatically charged to the passenger). Do you have a rigorous system for returning lost items to the passenger that protects the privacy of the passenger? "You have GPS" do you have the GPS tracking the driver at all times to ensure passenger safety and create a "chain of information custody" that leaves the driver accountable in case they should try to screw over the passenger?

  • BrettSTL||

    The irony is that St Louis was completely deregulated for cabs just a decade ago. It is used to be a textbook case of the problem with taxi deregulation. The number of drivers went up, and so fares shot through the roof, especially on airport routes (airport fares are highly inelastic, so the driver has to charge even more on those inelastic routes to make up for the greatly reduced business on other routes, regardless of how much they charge on those).
    Memory is short, but I think people here are going to remember how much worse the taxi situation was during deregulation.

  • RFID||

    The number of drivers went up, and so fares shot through the roof

    So according to you, more competition between drivers caused fares to...raise? Why are taxis different than every other good or service in the world?

  • Erasmus vs. Luther||

    +This. I'm not calling you a lair, but that makes absolutely no sense. Link please.

  • clarkjbunch||

    This link lists contact information for each elected official of St. Louis. The information is made public via the city's website; it would be great if each reader reached out via email or voice call to the mayor and other city aldermen to voice objection over this legal foolishness. https:// stlouis-mo.gov/government/elected-officials.cfm

    Every city can't be NYC and don't know why St. Louis would want to.

  • clarkjbunch||

    Copy and paste this link to your browser for contact info of St. Louis elected officials. I can't post the actual link because it contains "more than 50 characters" which reason.com does not allow. Odd that I can't speak freely regarding an article that criticizes control of free speech. Hmm...

    stlouis-mo.gov/government/elected-officials.cfm

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