Cab driver calls out Uber drivers as ‘unfair competition’

Cab driver calls out Uber drivers as ‘unfair competition’
Oceanside cab driver says Uber drivers are unfair competition. John Phillip Bowen says he wants Uber drivers ban from making curbside pickup at Oceanside Transit Center. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Cab driver John Phillip Bowen said it’s unfair and unsafe that Uber drivers can skirt around city business licenses, drug and criminal background checks and insurance requirements cab drivers face.

“They’re not vetted the way cab drivers are,” Bowen said. “It’s an uneven playing field.”

Bowen addressed the City Council on Aug. 5 with his concerns on Uber, Lyft and Homejoy drivers who offer driving service through a phone app platform.

Bowen said he wants the city to require Uber drivers to have a business license, or restrict them from picking up passengers at the Oceanside Transit Center.

“Uber drivers should not have the privilege to pick up curbside,” Bowen said.

“Their insurance and background are not vetted. You have to take an Uber driver’s word.”

He added he does not have a problem with people choosing to use Uber drivers, he just wants to ensure the same rules apply.

Since Bowen’s comments were not an agenda item, no reply was given that night. The city attorney was directed to inform the City Council about state regulations that are in place.

In addition to unfair competition and safety concerns, Bowen pointed out that cab companies in Oceanside provide subsidized pickup service to city seniors.

Seniors can purchase discounted taxi script through the city. The script costs $7 and provides $20 of cab service by Yellow Cab, for which Bowen is a driver, or 24-7 Cab. Drivers make an extra effort to accommodate seniors, and companies are required to have an ADA-compliant vehicle in their fleet.

“It’s a courtesy to the community,” Bowen said. “We’re not making any money off of it. Uber drivers are not going to pick up the reins if we go under.”

City regulations were adopted in 2012 that require city cab companies to have 10 or more cabs in their fleet, one ADA-compliant cab, GPS dispatching, and no vehicles more than 7 years old.

Cabs must display a medallion in their front windshield to show they comply with city rules.

Currently there are no such city requirements for Uber drivers.

Following the meeting, Mayor Jim Wood said Uber driver service is a new business model, and there are pending regulations to address some concerns.

“I think the situation is unknown at this point,” Wood said.

“Some people like to have the option because it’s cheaper, but they’re not getting the same quality (as cab service).”

City Attorney John Mullen said the Public Utilities Commission regulates Uber drivers. Oceanside is looking into state regulations.

Bowen said he plans to take his concerns to the North County Transit District board of directors in September.

Uber was asked to comment on the complaint but the company had not issued a response by press time.

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