News

Palo Alto looks to loosen rules for taxi fares

Ordinance amendment would allow taxi drivers to reduce fares during low-demand periods

Carl Grussendorf, 69, has been a cab driver for the past 30 years. Palo Alto's Policy and Services Committee will consider a proposed law that would allow taxi drivers to consider their fares through an app or online service. Photo by Veronica Weber.

With ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber changing the transportation landscape, Palo Alto officials are preparing to pass a new law to make life a little easier for local taxi drivers.

The city is considering changing an existing law that requires taxicab fares to be determined by a taximeter -- a tool that electronically calculates the fee. The traditional tool does not, however, allow cabbies to change fares based on demand -- an impediment that puts taxis at a competitive disadvantage.

The amendment that the council's Policy and Services Committee is set to consider on Tuesday would allow taxicabs to lower their rates if the demand is low. It would also allow customers to see and accept these fares through a mobile app or an online service, much like Uber and Lyft.

According to a new report from the Police Department, which regulates taxicab services, the rates will be the same as on the taximeter or, if the demand is lower, reduced. For hailed rides and those requested by phone, the taximeter would continue to be used.

The new law would not, however, allow taxicab drivers to surge up their fares during high-demand times. The report from the city notes that "at no time will the rate exceed the standard taximeter rate."

Palo Alto is one of several cities that are pursuing or have implemented revisions to their taxicab ordinances. Unlike ride-sharing companies, which are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, taxi services are regulated by individual cities. San Jose and Santa Clara have each recently revised their ordinances to allow taxi fares to be arranged through apps and online services.

"The emergence of TNCs (transportation network companies) has disrupted the taxicab industry, and the legacy regulations make it hard for taxicabs to compete for fares," the report from the Police Department states. "Staff believes the recommended ordinance changes will level the playing field and allow taxicab companies to utilize technology to compete in the space."

Related content:

Taxi businesses struggle to stay afloat in the Uber age

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2017 at 11:28 am

The cost of doing business for taxis is so much higher than for Uber that I wonder why taxi companies just don't change their business model to be more like Uber. Is there any benefit to being a taxi, other than all the extra requirements, regulations and fees?


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm

The problem with taxis is that the fare is dependent on the meter not the length of the trip. For example, if you call for a taxi and ask how much to SFO, you can't get an accurate reply. I know a taxi has to be in service for the length of time regardless of traffic, but getting an Uber and knowing what you will be paying makes Uber much more attractive than a taxi where you sit and watch the meter moving while you sit motionless in traffic is very annoying.


8 people like this
Posted by Gunn Dad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 7, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Gunn Dad is a registered user.

The benefit to being a taxi is (was?) government protection from competition. Ride-sharing has disrupted that.


2 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

At this rate of innovation and government business partnership, taxis should be competitive with ridesharing services sometime after the sun burns out. Maybe we should remove the burden of regulating taxi services from the police department. Who thought that was a good idea???


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm

After booking taxi rides in advance to SFO that didn’t show up, causing great difficulty, we have never done that ever again. Use other methods of transport. Have occasionally taken taxiis back here from SFO, the price is outrageous. Generally, we ferry friends and they ferry us.


2 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2017 at 9:59 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Puerto
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

Maybe Uber should follow regulations that were put in place for taxis, for the sake of safety and competition.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2017 at 12:18 pm

"Maybe Uber should follow regulations that were put in place for taxis, for the sake of safety and competition."

This fundamentally misstates the purposes of taxi (and a lot of other kinds of) regulation. Regulation of taxis has the primary purpose of protecting taxi companies from competition. Taxi companies obviously want to continue this state of affairs which - before Uber and Lyft - resulted in monopoly profits and the comfortable position of not having to worry much about satisfying customers who had no other viable alternatives. This is why taxi firms lobby to regulate Uber and Lyft out of business --- their lobbying has nothing to do with protecting consumers or with providing better service to consumers.


Like this comment
Posted by Competition
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm

I disagree with the conclusion that taxis had no competition before Uber and Lyft. I frequently compared price and value of taxis, limos, vans, shuttles, long-term parking for my trips to the airport.

But I agree the taxi regulations are looking backward. Maybe new regulations should require continuous recording of location and possibly other cams for this kind of service.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2017 at 12:46 am

We always use Uber or Lyft to SFO for about $35. Prefer that to disrupting someone else's day.

Our adult daughter always uses Lyft if she needs it. They have better filtering and background checks. Apparently, Uber drivers are approved within 24 hours.

In NYC, can't beat the taxi drivers for knowing their city. Uber dropped us off at wrong places twice (we didn't have the address, just named where we wanted to go). We used taxis in NYC after that. Taxi drivers in NYC have to rent their cars every morning for several hundred dollars, thus, they are speeding around all day to break even, then profit.


30 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2017 at 9:16 am

"Regulation of taxis has the primary purpose of protecting taxi companies from competition."

You mean like regulations that don't let taxi's ream the public with peak pricing, like Uber?

Or fingerprints and full background checks, unlike Uber and their hands off, 3rd party internet background checks?

Yeah, not so much. When I can, I take a taxi. When's it's not convenient, I use Lyft. We'll miss the taxis when they're gone.

The race to the bottom by deregulating costs jobs, hurts wages, reduces safety. Alas, it won't matter in 5 years anyway - all these guys will be unemployed. A driverless car will pull up and you'll direct it from your phone. Will politicians still blame Mexico for all the unemployment?




Uber pays $25 million "suit against Uber for not vetting its drivers thoroughly while claiming its background checks were the "gold standard" in the industry." Web Link

Should women take Uber? Class action lawsuit blames company for sexual assaults
Published: Nov 16, 2017 7:30 a.m. ET MarketWatch

Neither Lyft nor Uber use their own employees for background checks - they outsource it so they can hide when things go south Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2017 at 9:38 am

London black taxis are facing similar problems but instead of improving their service to compete against Uber and Lyft competition, they are attempting to regulate the service out.

The problem with London black taxis is that when they have made their quota for the day as full time drivers, they go home. As a result hailing a taxi in London after 10.00 pm is extremely difficult as a driver who has been working all day, earned what is necessary for a good day's work, won't be on the streets hoping for a fare when he doesn't need to be.

There are pros and cons of both services and as described above in NYC, systems are different. London black taxi drivers really know their way about, but they can choose their own hours.

Putting competition out there should make it easier for taxi users to weigh the different alternatives. When one system is using a better method to appeal to users it shows that the system should be updated to make the competition win by market pressure, not by legislation to protect one system over the other. It may be time that the meter system is outdated and payment is primarily by app as well as the old fashioned system of hailing a taxi. We are now able to use technology to call and pay for taxis as well as know how much a ride will cost in advance. Perhaps taxis should start doing the same and they just might get more riders.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Santa Rosa taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting passenger. Web Link

Taxi driver jailed after sexually assaulting female passenger
Web Link

Santa Barbara Cab Driver Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Passenger Web Link

Taxi driver accused of sexual assault on passenger Web Link

Etc., etc.

You can fool yourself into thinking these regulated background checks taxi drivers go through protect you, but you're doing just that: fooling yourself. These background checks, like the other taxi regs, primarily were intended to protect taxi companies from competition, which is why the taxi companies lobby so heavily to have them applied to Uber and Lyft despite absolutely no evidence that they do anything to make passengers safer. Web Link

Go ahead and call a taxi and wait for it to show up - if one is available. For people stuck in the stone age of transportation, it makes sense I suppose - especially when you have Lyft or Uber as backup (thanks to surge pricing) when the taxi isn't available.

What will the Luddites complain about when self driving cars put Uber and Lyft drivers out of business?


4 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm

"Go ahead and call a taxi and wait for it to show up" blah blah luddites blah blah stone age blah blah... perhaps you should read my comments again: "When I can, I take a taxi. When's it's not convenient, I use Lyft"

For example, at the train station it's easier to support cabs as they are already there.

re background checks - look at the links: Sterling does/did Lyft's checks and they were a joke. But by all means link to a 2013 Santa Barbara attack as your proof that Uber has better background checks as an unregulated carrier.

Yes; many, many drivers will be out of jobs in 5 to 10 years. Uber and Lyft will survive and thrive as corporate entities long after no longer needing the drivers that helped build their empires. How does that observation make one a Luddite?


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 7:49 am

No need to be embarrassed about being a taxi user. My mom never trusted hand held calculators, but I loved her all the same.


4 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:16 am

Sticking with the Luddite implication, instead of defending your proposition that regulations for safety and consumer protections are somehow self-serving for the taxi industry. How cute, the way you handle defeat. Trumpian, almost.

Ride-sharing is essentially the same as the taxi industry, and consumers deserve the same or better safety and consumer protections put in place for any private transportation model. Not less protections.

Thanks for playing. We are all so happy to hear that you loved your mom.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 11:08 am

One of the great things about being a consumer in a free economy is that one has a choice about which products to consume and use. Early in the last century, some consumers chose to remain with horse and buggy - believing that they were somehow safer or superior - even when it was apparent that the automobile was the future. Eventually so few people chose to stick with horses that they died out as a mode of everyday transportation. I'm glad that people who think against all evidence that taxi's are superior to ride sharing can call or hail a cab - while they last.

I understand there are resorts where one can go to experience what it was like to drive a horse and buggy. Maybe there will be such places for taxi enthusiasts when they too yield to superior products and completely disappear as a mode of commercial transportation. Las Vegas might be a good place for such an amusement.


2 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2017 at 11:55 am

Still with the Luddite theme, despite the article being about rules, not your Vegas fantasies.

"Palo Alto looks to loosen rules for taxi fares" - Ride-sharing is essentially the same as the taxi industry, and consumers deserve the same or better safety and consumer protections put in place for any private transportation model. Not less protections.

Perhaps you shall soon declare your love of apple pie and baseball. That makes as much sense as your comparisons with horses, though perhaps you were admiring Moore this morning as he rode in to vote. Seriously - how do you get from consumer protection regulations to Vegas dude ranches?!?


2 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm

One of the best things about living in this country is that, compared to a lot of other places, we still have lots of choices. Roy Moore is an enemy of choice - in what to believe, in who to marry, and in what kind of health care services women can buy.

Right now we have numerous choices in transportation modes. Consumers who think that government background checks and other restrictions on ride companies add something valuable have the freedom to choose taxis. Consumers who don't think these government regs add much can choose Uber, Lyft or something else. No one is forced to take a ride on Lyft. Why would anyone - except someone with a Roy Moore mindset that thinks he knows what's best for everyone else - want to take choices away from people?


14 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Do you believe in seatbelt laws?


4 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

So it's all about a Libertarian choice mindset that consumer protections and safety should take a back seat to the free market?

You should have just said so! You support the Roy Moores, Steve Bannons and Paul Ryans as they disable consumer protections, consumer safety, clean air, civil rights, voting rights, etc.. You seek to make the transportation field uneven, giving Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his scandals a free pass, in his race to the bottom. Very Libertarian!

Thank you. Also, thanks for the demonstration of how your mind works, from Mom to buggy whips to dude ranches. Enlightening.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Authoritarians always have a reason why taking choices away from people is a good idea. They're usually pretty good at labeling those they disagree with, whether those labels make any sense or not. And of course they want to use government power to enforce their ideas because they can't persuade people on the merits.

Roy Moore is pretty representative authoritarian. He wants to take people's choices away because he thinks that people whose choices differ from his are immoral. He calls people who disagree with him "godless". And he obviously can't persuade many that he knows anything about the topics he spews his nonsense on.

It's surprising that here in progressive Silicon Valley, we have our own Roy Moores who are absolutely sure that they know what people SHOULD want when choosing a ride company. And anyone who disagrees with them is Libertarian or Bannon or some other scary boogieman. And our Roy Moores engage in this ad hominem because they are losing the argument on the merits. As the article that is the subject of this thread points out, traditional taxi companies are losing the battle with their ride share competitors because despite the scare tactics of the taxi companies and their supporters, people choose Uber and Lyft when given the chance over the outmoded taxi model - even with all its "superior" consumer protections.

Roy Moore can call Doug Jones names all day, but that doesn't make his arguments for denying people choice any better. And our local Roy Moores can spew about Bannon and Ryan and Libertarians all day, but that won't stop people from choosing Uber over ponderous yellow cabs. They've lost the argument and the taxis have lost their market. Our Roy Moores only remaining option is to try to regulate ride sharing so it will be as unpalatable and unwieldy to use as taxis. This isn't really very consumer friendly....but then when you look hard at these protectors of the common good, you almost always find a lurking authoritarian interested more in control than in anything else.


12 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Reading comprehension is not your friend, eh?

>> engage in this ad hominem because they are losing the argument on the merits

See: Luddites, "people stuck in the stone age", comparisons with your Mom (no shame there, eh what?), etc..

>> As the article that is the subject of this thread points out, traditional taxi companies are losing the battle

Actually, no. The title is, once again: Palo Alto looks to loosen rules for taxi fares

It is about creating a fair, level playing field across the industry, with basic consumer and safety protections for all players, which you keep fighting against. I posit that all in the field should operate under current or better safety protections; you seem to think that they are not needed, and argue for less regulation to protect consumers and favors one element over all.

You neither deny your Libertarian, free market opinions, nor do you answer the basic questions, such as posted above: Do you believe in seatbelt laws?

I'll add: does government, in your mind, play a role in consumer safety and protection? Please try to keep you yes/no answer under 400 words.


2 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:56 pm

The problem that some seem to be having here is that people making voluntary choices in ride services choose ride sharing in preference to taxis despite the firm belief by some that ride sharing is less safe than taxis and so choice should be restricted. But the consumer preference for ride sharing isn't surprising since the apparently only comprehensive journalistic investigation of the matter could find no evidence whatsoever that regulation of taxis (or ride sharing) make them any safer. Web Link

Thus, whether or not one thinks consumer sovereignty is trumped by the interest in government protection of consumer safety through regulation, there really isn't a positive case for further government regulation of ride services. You never have to reach the mostly unrelated philosophical questions of seat belt laws and the like because in the matter of ride sharing (what we're talking about here) a case hasn't been made on the merits.

I leave out the unfortunate possibility that there are some on this thread that like regulation for its own sake and because they are adherents of government control of as much of life as possible whether it makes sense or not.


6 people like this
Posted by farms? In Berkeley?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm

>> I leave out the unfortunate possibility that there are some on this thread that like regulation

No, you've mentioned it many times, mistakenly. What you've refused to admit is your adherence to Libertarianism, but we get it through your twisted logic, a sure sign of one defending the indefensible.

You can't bring yourself to say seat belt laws were good? Sad!

Good day to you.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Mary, -I'm- not a Libertarian -- I'm a Liberal. But, although I have virtually nothing in common with Steve Bannon -- he isn't a Libertarian either, and, Bannon endorsed Roy Moore.

Web Link

Web Link

So, I'm kind of confused by your statements.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Anon -

I'm not sure to what you're referring. I didn't bring up the subject of libertarianism here, another poster did. I'm not sure what it has to do with the subject under discussion other than as a term to throw around as an epithet against people with whom one disagrees.

To me whether someone is a Libertarian, a Marxist, a Nazi a Communist - or even a Republican or Democrat, has nothing to do with this topic. The arguments - pro or con - should rise or fall on their own merits - not on who's making them and particularly not on what political ideology is claimed by the poster.

Some of the invective has a whiff of "Are you now or have you ever been a member..."

That being said, I think you're absolutely right: From what I know about Libertarians, I don't think Bannon would get a positive reception at their meetings.


2 people like this
Posted by Invisible hand of the free market man
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

Libertarians around here trying so hard to hide the name... they're tired of defending the indefensible - libertarianism.

Sensible regulation should apply to all players. Government should not pick winners and losers - maintain a level field of play. A free market, not a free for all.

Ride apps should have the same rules as all carriers: taxi limo bus etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Invisible hand of the free market man
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2017 at 8:01 pm

Mary - Do you believe in seatbelt laws?


2 people like this
Posted by The Interogator
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 12, 2017 at 8:42 pm

A regulation for seat belts? An easy question for anyone to answer.

Except a libertarian.


2 people like this
Posted by Woddy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Sub-thread: how to flummox a libertarian in 6 easy words....

"Do you believe in seatbelt laws?"


1 person likes this
Posted by Paiting Club
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Anyone here have a narrow brush to paint people with? No? Painting people with a broad brush is really easy, but it can always be proven false with just a single individual.
It's the hallmark of people who don't like detailed thinking.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

An apparently little known fact: Ride sharing firms in California are regulated by the state PUC, while taxis are regulated by local jurisdictions. While one might question the wisdom of having different regulatory schemes applied to apparently similar consumer services, this bifurcation has had the effect of creating a semi-controlled test of consumer preference in ride services.

In city after city, taxis are losing out to Uber, Lyft and smaller ride sharing companies. Whatever their critics say, ride sharing apparently are preferable to taxis for most consumers. When this fact is combined with the absence of evidence that taxis offer some hidden safety advantage over ride sharing (see link above), the consumer case for further regulation vanishes.

That leaves the "level playing field" argument that some here have brought up. The fact that taxis and ride sharing companies are regulated by separate agencies would make it difficult to implement this kind of equal burdens scheme. But even if it were possible to do so, why would anyone propose to add regulatory burdens to a service consumers prefer to a more regulated service when there's no evidence that the regulation confers any consumer benefit? Do we really want to regulate ride sharing just to save the taxi industry when taxis are clearly an inferior service based on consumer demand?


4 people like this
Posted by Bucky Bell
a resident of Triple El
on Dec 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm

500 words to avoid the 6 little words asked.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm

"believe in" is something I associate with religion, not with seat belt laws. Maybe that reveals something about why you guys want to turn this thread into a discussion about that, instead of having a more straightforward discussion about what kind of regulation makes sense for ride sharing companies. Or maybe you've just run out of arguments to support your position and so resort to misdirection and other nonsense.

That being said, if you want to argue about believing in seat belt laws, start a thread on it and see if it's interesting to enough people to make it fly here. (But if you're looking to me to provide you with a set of strawman libertarian arguments to shoot down, you're likely to be disappointed: I supported Bernie.)

Meanwhile - on this thread, do you have anything pertinent to say about ride sharing regulation?




Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Having been in countries with mandatory seat belt use in buses and shuttles, I am amazed that we still don't even have lap top belts in our buses here. This is particularly important for children in school buses, but no, we don't have them.

Yes, I believe in seat belt laws, as well as lights for bikes. But all we get here is a law about helmets on bikes that don't do anything to prevent accidents, just to protect after the accident already occurs.


4 people like this
Posted by Viliami
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Any one that can't answer a simple question on seat belt regulations is an anti-regulation zealot. Otherwise, why not answer?

Not worth debating an issue until they fess up. But y'all keep trying....


2 people like this
Posted by Bro's unite
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 14, 2017 at 2:39 pm

How's about this, Bernie Bro: what government regulation do you support, if not seat belts?


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