Bipartisan lawmakers hail bill to regulate cyber-taxies

Tapping into smartphone aps like Lyft and uberX often means a car wearing a flamboyant pink mustache, or else a chic black Escalade, will scoop you up faster and more cheaply than a taxi. However, these companies are currently unregulated by the state of Colorado.

The ride-sharing aps, which are becoming increasingly popular in Denver, allow riders to request a car ride via their smartphone directly from private drivers and not taxi companies. Unlike cabbies, neither Lyft nor uberX drivers are unionized. Lyft’s fares are all donation based, though the ap makes it possible for riders and drivers to rate each other and you can guess how often reported cheapskates get a ride. uberX, on the other hand, issues a base fare just over two dollars with additional charges based on distance or time traveled.

But no one will be going far in these new cyber taxis if regulations aren’t put in place soon. The Public Utilities Commission recently announced that it would shut these companies down if the legislature didn’t mandate some oversight for this burgeoning area of the transit industry.

Enter your elected urban tech-heads, a bipartisan coalition including SB 125 sponsors Senator Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch and Representative Dan Pabon of Denver. Their bill would create a workable regulatory structure for mobile ap-driven transit companies like uberX and Lyft so that they can operate within the law in Colorado.

“This is a new, modern way of providing transportation services for the citizens of Colorado that really should not be as structurally regulated as a taxi cab company already is in statute,” said Harvey.  

“The bill is trying to walk that fine line between understanding the economic opportunity that is here for these businesses but also providing for public safety at the same time.” 

The measure wouldn’t hold companies such as Lyft and uberX to all the same standards as taxicabs, whose fairs are regulated by the PUC. The bill would that ensure that Lyft, Uber and their future competitors are using cars that are mechanically sound, that they have adequate insurance for drivers and riders, and that drivers go through some kind of background check to ensure rider safety.

The bill goes up for a second reading vote in the Senate tomorrow. If it makes it through the Senate under its Republican sponsor, SB 125 will be passed to Pabon, a Democrat, to shepherd through the House.

“I am the guy who always likes to have that newest iPhone,” said Pabon of his support for the tech industry-friendly measure.

“To me technology means innovation, it means efficiency. Lyft and Uber are the iPhone of transportation.”

[Still from Lyft Creatives, part of Lyft’s appeal includes marketing their drivers as the next best thing to a fun friend who’s always willing to pick you up — often with snacks, games and music in tow.]