LA City Council considers penalties for taxi drivers guilty of discrimination

– A Los Angeles City Council committee approved “zero tolerance” penalties Tuesday that would result in the immediate revocation of a taxi driver’s permit to operate at Los Angeles International Airport if he or she were found to have refused rides due to race or other discriminatory reasons.

The tougher rules, which will next be considered by the full City Council, were prompted by a complaint in September by former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville, who said he was refused a ride by a taxi driver at LAX because he is black.

Currently, permit revocation occurs after the third offense, while the new rules call for immediate revocation of a “driver’s permit to provide taxicab service” if he or she refuses service based on “prejudice against a specific race, nationality, religion, age, disability, sex or gender identity,” according to a report by Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX.

Under the proposed new penalties, informal warnings would be eliminated under the new rules.

Refusals of service for other reasons would result in no less than six days suspension from the airport, while discourteous actions could lead to suspensions lasting no less than four days, under the proposed rules.

The revisions to the airport’s penalties for taxi drivers are similar to rules adopted by the Department of Transportation, which issues citywide permits for taxi drivers, according to airport officials.

The stricter penalties received the backing today of the Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, which is chaired by Councilman Bob Blumenfield.

Blumenfield, who had introduced a motion to look into discrimination by taxi drivers, said today the incident described by Glanville “made my stomach turn.”

City officials do not appear to agree on whether the taxi driver’s actions against Glanville were motivated by race.

The driver who refused Glanville’s ride was initially hit with a one-year revocation of his permit, but this evocation was downgraded to two weeks after the driver appealed to the Department of Transportation saying that he
refused service not because of Glanville’s race, but because the trip was too short and would have result in lower fares.

The revised penalties approved by the committee would replace existing enforcement rules included in an agreement with Authorized Taxicab Supervision, Inc., an outside company that manages taxi dispatch and taxi stands for LAX.

The Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee also requested that airport officials consider similar rules that would apply to the taxi companies themselves — not just the drivers — and for ride-hailing companies.

Airport officials told the panel today they found gaps in their enforcement process while investigating Glanville’s complaint. They also said all taxi drivers at the airport have been instructed to undergo diversity training.

Airport police also conducted an undercover operation in November with two black officers hailing trips from taxi drivers. Out of 25 requests made, they were refused five times, airport officials told the committee.

A couple of the refusals may have been because the trips were too short, but there were some cases in which taxi drivers refused giving rides before knowing the destination, airport officials said.

Blumenfield said he was “shocked” by the refusals, which he said pointed to a problem of racial discrimination among taxi drivers at LAX. Blumenfield spokesman Jason Levin told City News Service he was not sure
if any sting operations using control groups such as white undercover officers had also been done as a comparison.

Additional undercover operations have been conducted since the initial one in November, according to airport officials.

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San Francisco’s Yellow Cab files for bankruptcy

SAN FRANCSICO (CNNMoney) —The largest taxi company in San Francisco has filed for bankruptcy. Yellow Cab Cooperative, which is made up of 300 owners and operators with more than 500 cabs, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday.

It’s been a rough few years for traditional taxi companies, as they’ve struggled to keep with ride-hailing startups Uber and Lyft. Yellow Cab appears to be dealing with even more pressing financial issues. In the court filings, Yellow Cab said it is handling around 150 ongoing liability claims stemming from taxi accidents.

The company was found liable for $8 million last June after a Yellow Cab crashed and left a passenger partially paralyzed.

Yellow Cab argued that the driver was entirely responsible for the crash because he was an independent contractor. The argument echoed Uber and Lyft’s own approaches to drivers, though it’s unclear if similar lawsuits would have the same impact on the ride-hailing companies.

A year ago, Yellow Cab of Chicago also filed for bankruptcy because of a crash-related lawsuit. The company was found liable for $26 million after a passenger suffered brain damage in a crash.

San Francisco’s Yellow Cab collective is not stopping service. You’ll still be able to spot, and maybe hail, a Yellow Cab in San Francisco. It says business is still strong and that it averages 15,000 fares a day in the city. The chapter 11 filing will allow it to restructure its debts, it said in a statement.

As ride-hailing startups have gained traction, traditional cabs have tried to imitate their technology. They’ve turned to companies like Flywheel, a ride-hailing app just for taxis that came out three years ago. One of the San Francisco’s oldest cab companies, DeSoto Cabs, rebranded its entire fleet of cars as Flywheel Taxis last year.

Yellow Cab recently released its own ride-hailing app called Yo Taxi.

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