Taxis

Give Someone a Ride, Get Arrested: San Antonio Threatens Lyft

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As technologies like smartphones make communication quicker and easier, as techniques like user and supplier ratings make consumer choice and power stronger and more decentralized, as they all combine to help us use products like cars more efficiently to meet more human needs, as the "sharing economy" makes life better and easier for those who choose to use it—as all these great things happen, you can always count on the cops to come in and threaten to arrest people over it.

See the latest from San Antonio, Texas, and its WOAI news radio as "e-hailing" service Lyft tries to get involved in providing a donation-based ride service to the people of San Antonio:

San Antonio Police warned today that those on line car sharing apps like 'Lyft' and 'Uber' are illegal, and drivers who pick up passengers for cash risk being arrested.

  "You might be one of these drivers who is summoned for a ride, and you won't know who summoned you," [Chief of Police William] McManus warned.  "It could be a police officer, and you'll be in trouble."

  1200 WOAI news was first to report earlier this week that Lyft, which bills itself as 'your friend with a car,' is looking for drivers in San Antonio.

  McManus said he sent Lyft a 'strongly worded cease and desist letter' today, warning them not to set up operations in San Antonio unless they conform to taxi regulations.

  "I want to warn anybody in the city who may be tempted to use this service to be very very careful."

  Lyft says it is no different from a friend giving another friend a ride.  The passenger doesn't pay a fare, he or she gives a 'donation' to the driver.

  But McManus says no matter how you cut it, taking anybody anyplace on city streets for cash is a violation of the city's strict taxi ordinances.

  "The problem with this is, the public is put in danger," he said.  "You don't know who is going to show up, you don't know what the condition is that the car is in that you're going to get into."

Except that through the use of an app that allows both driver and passenger to see each other before pickup and see how each other has been rated by other users and drivers, you do know what you are getting into through a system that's up to the minute and generally far more rigorous than the city's paper regulations on "official taxis."

A feature on the rise of, and regulatory backlash against, these e-hailing ride services will appear in a forthcoming issue of Reason (subscribe now!)

Previous Reason blogging on Lyft.

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  1. “It could be a police officer, and you’ll be in trouble.”

    Yeah, bullying threats never get old. But hey, that’s what cops do.

    1. Is that so? Maybe you’d like to take a little ride in a squad car?

      1. As long as it’s too my desired destination, I accept your generous offer.

        1. Is your desired destination the county jail?

  2. But McManus says no matter how you cut it, taking anybody anyplace on city streets for cash is a violation of the city’s strict taxi ordinances.

    So if I have this right, if I’m in San Antonio, and I ask my best friend to give me a ride to the airport, and tell him I’ll pitch him a couple bucks for gas for his trouble–I’m asking him to commit a crime, and he could be arrested for accepting?

    1. Apparently. Welcome to the land of the free.

      Although, on the plus side, you could use this as an excuse to be a cheap bastard. “I’d love to pitch a couple of bucks, but I don’t want you get arrested. ‘Cause I’m such a good friend like that.”

    2. No, only if you don’t know eachother. Think of it like the anti-domestic crime bill. The less you know each other, the bigger the penalties.

  3. Lyft is working well in Nashville, primarily because our cab system is absolutely terrible. Prior to Lyft and Uber you could expect to wait upwards of TWO HOURS for a cab on a weeknight. And then when they did finally show up the driver barely spoke English, didn’t know where they were going and clearly had been in America for all of about a month before getting the job.

    We LAUGH at the idea that Lyft is “unregulated” considering there is NO POSSIBLE WAY the drivers of the majority of cabs in Nashville are even legal immigrants in the first place, never mind a regulated professional cab driver.

    1. Agreed, I’m bewildered by people who say that we need taxi cartels because that’s the only way to make sure you have safe, qualified drivers. I can only assume these people have never ridden in a taxi anywhere in this country, at all.

    2. when they did finally show up the driver barely spoke English, didn’t know where they were going and clearly had been in America for all of about a month before getting the job.

      You could be describing most cab drivers in any major city or town. Most taxi regulations are a joke. They’re only there to protect established cab companies from competition like Lyft and Uber.

      1. That’s the irony.

        The vast majority of cab drivers in Nashville (and as you both say -probably true elsewhere as well) would probably not qualify as a Lyft or Uber drivers.

      2. They’re only there to protect established cab companies from competition like Lyft and Uber.

        That is so not true! These cities also run mass transit systems, so they restrict the number of legal cabs to keep their busses/trains/trollies in business.

        1. Actually, that is so not true! They just cut out these new businesses as a side benefit. The original intent was to keep poor people from getting a car and working for themselves as a cabbie. Better that an established cab company with the ability to make payoffs lobby local officials get the lion’s share of the money, letting the poor slobs work for the cab companies instead.

  4. Incidentally, are taxi companies run by the Mafia or something? How are they so good at getting the police to act as their muscle?

    1. Cash business with poor record keeping makes for a lot of unaccounted for money to get into the right hands.

    2. See above: the cities also want to protect their mass transit ridership.

      1. I respectfully disagree. Cities pretty much already universally lose money on their mass-transits and while they care about ridership for PR reasons, there are often runs in cities with ridership so low, they wouldn’t function for five minutes in a free market.

        While it might be *some* of it, it’s really just regulatory capture in the cab industry.

        1. Think out of the box. Building mass transit systems doesn’t have as the goal to carry passengers. Just ask Mr Cannon, former mayor of Charlotte. He actually didn’t get the point, though.

  5. “You might be one of these drivers who is summoned for a ride, and you won’t know who summoned you,” [Chief of Police William] McManus warned. “It could be a police officer, and you’ll be in trouble.”

    Translation: “SAPD will be setting up sting operations to catch people giving rides via Lyft. Because it’s so important to keep these monsters off the roads.”

    On the plus side, I guess this means they’ve solved all the other crimes in San Antonio… BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!11!!!! Who am I kidding, why go after real criminals when you can crack down on Lyft. After all, real criminals are dangerous. Some cops might not make it home safely if they go after them.

    1. But like they said, some of these drivers could be violent armed robbers.

      I mean, we wouldn’t want people who give rides to be robbers just waiting for a chance to use violence against people. And that’s just the taxi cartel!

  6. How can anyone know it’s a real taxi unless it’s certified by the government?

    1. 99.9% of cars on the road ARE certified by the government.

  7. But I thought Texas was the burgeoning libertopia?

    1. Shh… we are supposed to ignore stuff like this. And all the unarmed motorist shootings and Drug War stuff.

      1. Didn’t you ladies get the memo? Now it’s Australia.

  8. I think this is a very effective way to demonstrate to liberals what is wrong with their approach. The regulations they want really boil down to arresting and jailing people for doing otherwise. What converted me to libertarianism was a fellow libertarian pointing out that the real problem with minimum wage laws, which I always disliked for economic reasons, was that you were advocating using government force to arrest someone for the crime of…offering another person a job. Here you are talking about jailing someone for…offering them a lift. A lot of liberals at least profess to be aghast at actual use of force, so it pays to remind them where what they advocate goes.

  9. OT: For the first time in my life, I got the “sir, leave or we will call security” moment.

    At Kroger.

    Yes, really.

    I left, of course. That is absolutely not the hill to die on.

    1. What was your beef with them?

      1. Heh, good one.

        Poorly worded ad and a fundamental difference over what “8 inches” means.

        Telling an engineer to ignore his ruler is fucking stupid.

        1. The manager just didn’t like the fact that your dick was bigger than his, not to mention it being properly calibrated.

          1. It was a female manager. Thats the problem, people have been lying to her about measurements her whole life.

    2. Tested out your ‘a sign does not prevent me from carrying a gun on the grounds’ theory?

      1. Nope, no need, KY law is with me on that one.

        But, yes, they could ask me to leave for that. But its Kentucky, no Kroger would stay in business if they tried that shit.

        1. I heard KY law forbid employers and such from prohibiting guns in cars parked on their property, but does it also forbid establishments from forbidding the guns be carried on their property?

          1. What do you mean by “forbid”?

            You can ask anyone to leave for carrying on your property. But a posted sign has no legal authority — other than the handful of places that are flat out illegal to carry (courthouse, bars, chambers of the legislature).

            Funny story that Ive told before but you might not have heard. After 9/11, the state capital put up metal detectors at the entrance. However, its a legal carry location, so people, mostly workers, kept pulling out their concealed weapons, handing them to guard, going thru detector, then reconcealing on the other side. After a very short time, they decided this was stupid and got rid of the detectors.

            You can conceal carry in all parts of the capital except the senate and house floor/viewing area and their committee meeting rooms.

            1. What do you mean by “forbid”?

              You can ask anyone to leave for carrying on your property. But a posted sign has no legal authority — other than the handful of places that are flat out illegal to carry (courthouse, bars, chambers of the legislature).

              But if you ask someone to leave for carrying and they refuse, that would be trespassing, correct?

              1. Correct.

                If you asked them to leave for any reason, like ability to use a ruler, and they refuse, it would be trespassing.

            2. So if an establishment has a sign posted that says ‘no firearms allowed on these premises’ you can come in carrying? I know that is your (rather idiosyncratic) ideal, but that isn’t the law in KY is it?

              1. Yes, it is the KY law.

                1. And considering it is the KY law, I think you need to pull back your description of it as “ideosyncratic”.

                  1. That something is the law in Kentucky does not exclude it from the category of ‘idiosyncratic.’

                    1. It makes it far from “unusual” or “individualistic”.

                      I have many idiosyncratic ideals, but this isnt one of them.

                    2. It can mean peculiar or unusual, both of which can describe Kentucky…

                    3. KY is normal, everyone else is bizarre.

                    4. Kentucky is hardly alone. Oregon’s law is similar except that concealed carry is allowed in the entire capitol. Open carry too, if you hold a concealed carry permit.

                      No special restrictions on carry in bars for that matter.

                  2. Wikipedia (which I think is wrong in this case) claims that posting is valid for concealed carry but not for open carry.

                    Unless the law has changed in the last decade, I think that is wrong.

                    1. KRS ? 237.110 (17) authorizes private businesses to prohibit concealed carry on their premises (not open carry). Although, only once asked to leave the premises may the gun owner be duly cited for trespassing or disturbing the peace.

                      Also from wikipedia.

                      I think that goes with what I said above. You can post all you want, but it has no legal authority until you ask them to leave.

                    2. I did find this, and provision 2 lines up with what you are saying. Interestingly, provision 4 gives weight to postings.

                    3. I was trying to get the KRS statute to load. I think you put it over its daily usage limit of 1.

                    4. I found it here. It does not say anything about having to be told in person, but perhaps read in conjunction with the general provisions on trespass I noted above that is how it works.

                      http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes…..x?id=41878

                      “The owner, business or commercial lessee, or manager of a private business
                      enterprise, day-care center as defined in KRS 199.894 or certified or licensed
                      family child-care home as defined in KRS 199.8982, or a health-care facility
                      licensed under KRS Chapter 216B, except facilities renting or leasing housing,
                      may prohibit persons holding concealed deadly weapon licenses from carrying
                      concealed deadly weapons on the premises and may prohibit employees, not
                      authorized by the employer, holding concealed deadly weapons licenses from
                      carrying concealed deadly weapons on the property of the employer. If the
                      building or the premises are open to the public, the employer or business
                      enterprise shall post signs on or about the premises if carrying concealed
                      weapons is prohibited.”

                    5. Note that it only “prohibits” concealed carry, not open carry.

                      Open carry is constitutional protected so I guess they couldnt mess with it.

                      I still think an open carrier can be asked to leave, and would be trespassing if they didnt, so while the law may read differently, in practice its exactly the same thing.

                    6. They can prohibit concealed carry, but as long as you’re doing it right they’ll never know.

                      Seems a bit silly to me.

            3. So my wife and I are waiting in the checkout line at that Kroger and the skanky single mom in front of us is taking forever, arguing about the price of everything. Her toddler is climbing around on the bottom of the cart and is wearing nothing but a diaper. The kid keeps stopping playtime to dig around in the back of his diaper, just really getting his whole hand up in there. She’s barely halfway done and the kid starts the “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy” chant that she is just completely ignoring. Finally the kid goes “MY ASS, MOMMY! MY ASS!” She finally jerks him up by him arm and his hands are just covered in shit. He continues to scream “MY ASS!” as she drags him outside, leaving all her half-checked out groceries behind.

              I had to do the grocery shopping by myself after that.

              1. Well, at least this discussion produced something of value.

              2. Was the baby named Bo ?

                1. +1 bureaucrat

              3. Sugar, is this one of your stories or did this really happen? Because it’s kind of horrifying.

            4. You can conceal carry in all parts of the capital except the senate and house floor/viewing area and their committee meeting rooms.

              Which is precisely the place you want to carry.

    3. Listen robc, just because the sign only specifies shirts and shoes doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear pants as well.

  10. But McManus says no matter how you cut it, taking anybody anyplace on city streets for cash is a violation of the city’s strict taxi ordinances.

    The Fugitive Taxi Act of 2014.

  11. Without having paid government fees, a driver could be a rapist or be carrying a nuclear device. The city can’t afford to let you make that choice. Literally. They have a wife and a mistress to support.

  12. Is there any way we can get photos and names of SAPD members to check them against ostensible Lyft customers?

    1. Sounds like a good use for face recognition software. How is this going to work beyond the first attempt by the police? Will it be illegal to report to Lyft that a passenger arrested you?

  13. Can I still trust drivers of windowless vans when hitchhiking?

    1. Wow, Dr., I almost didn’t recognize you now that you’ve changed the spelling of your name!

    2. So, let’s see. Giving someone a paid ride is forbidden. Giving someone a free ride (aka hitch-hiking) is forbidden. So does this mean if pulled over at any time, you have to prove that you previously knew everyone in the car before the trip began?

      1. Yes, so get your stories striaght beforehand.

    3. Can I still trust drivers of windowless vans when hitchhiking?

      that’s how my daughter gets to school.

  14. Harry Browne used to be fond of saying that government was good at breaking your legs, handing you crutches, and then bragging that without government, you wouldn’t be able to walk!

    So, in the Brownian scenario, if the guy with broken legs gets tired of government expecting him to be grateful for the crutches, and gets a friend with a 3D printer makes him some crutches, we expect the government to arrest the friend for not having FDA approval to produce medical devices.

    Banish the parasites.

    1. *slowly nodding with increased fervor*

      Yes, that’s exactly what we can expect.

      *starts clapping*

    2. I like your extension to medical devices. The notion that any piece of plastic (or metal for that matter) molded into any particular shape could be illegal is bizarre to me.

      I first encountered this in the “community standards” era of the 80’s as local DA’s around the country were prosecuting various businesses for having sex toys. I was at UNC Chapel Hill at the time and they raided the headquarters of Adam and Eve located just down the road from my apartment several times. They hauled out boxes of dildoes and charged the owners with obscenity violations for having them. I thought, “how can a piece of rubber in any shape be illegal?” Are they really going to say “that piece of rubber is too elongated and is therefore obscene”? Yes, yes they are. Or were. They seem to have moved on from this obsession.

      Then you have to go to the FDA to get approval for a new speculum design? How do they even draw the line? Is that stainless steel screw a piece of hardware, or a regulated medical device? What about that walking stick? How about a tongue depressor? Silicon tubing?

      Now we have “partially finished lowers” made of plastic that are really just reasonably simply shaped and inert pieces of plastic – but are deemed illegal. My legal understanding is clearly too simple-minded. I read “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and I have a hard time reconciling that with a little plastic boxy thing being illegal.

  15. So cars are like giant vaginas now? Never would’ve imagined the day when Kias and Hookers shared something in common. Sadly, they both get busted when people pay cash to ride them.

  16. Roll ti over dude, roll it over.

    http://www.EliteVPN.tk

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