So called 'ride sharing' firms like Uber and Lyft are no closer to being able to legally and openly carry passengers for a fare in San Antonio.
The city's Transportation Advisory Committee sputtered Monday night in trying to reach a 'compromise' which would allow the firms to compete with taxi companies. Another hearing before the city's Public Safety Commission is set for next month.
John Bouloubasis, who heads Yellow Cab of San Antonio, says there is no way the firms can fairly compete with regulated taxis.
"These unlicensed vehicles for hire are an unregulated industry and we are a regulated industry," Bouloubasis told Newsradio 1200 WOAI. "This isn't about competition. They have to play by the same rules as we do."
The ride share firms, which bill themselves as 'your friend with a car' operates like if you had a cousin take you someplace when your car is in the shop, and you would give her gas money. Uber and Lyft recruit regular citizens who have a car which is sitting unused in the driveway. They are summoned through a smart phone app, and take the customer to a destination for a 'donation.'
But Bouloubasis says the ride sharing firms are not required to meet the same standards as taxis meet, including 24/7 insurance that covers passengers for hire, regular inspection of their vehicles for safety, full background checks on all drivers, and a requirement that the firms don't discriminate. He says a Yellow Cab will pick up fares anywhere in the metro area, while Uber and Lyft generally restrict themselves to the north side and downtown.
He says a key difference is that Yellow cabs are equipped to handle wheelchairs and other disabled passengers, while an individual's private vehicle is not.
"I don't think that the city should acquiesce at all," he said. "I think the city should hold them to the same vehicle for hire standards that we have to."
He warned that any accommodation with the companies would lead to drivers leaving Yellow Cab, and poorer service for the two million people a year that Yellow Cab transports in San Antonio, many of them visitors to the city. He says cities that have successfully barred Uber and Lyft have outstanding transportation offerings, while cities which have attempted to accommodate the firms, like San Francisco and Seattle, are a 'mess.'
Bouloubasis pointed out that Uber and Lyft are currently still operating in San Antonio, going so far as to pay the fines for drivers who are caught in a police sting operation. He says any companies that would continue to operate in the face of a police 'cease and desist' order cannot be trusted to abide by any agreements it may make with the city.
"The city can't be fooled into thinking that these companies that are operating illegally right now are going to suddenly start following the guidelines," he said.
He also expressed frustration that Uber and Lyft get support because they're perceived to be 'cool' and because they use an app to summon a car. He says Yellow Cab has an app too...and it works a lot better than his competitors applications.