State regulators on Thursday granted companies such as Uber and Lyft permission to offer carpooling, sanctioning a service that has allowed fast-growing San Francisco companies to offer lower-cost rides. After weeks of delays, the California Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 on Thursday to approve commercial carpooling. Commissioner Mike Florio cast the sole vote opposing the motion because he wasn’t convinced that the decision was legal.
“If I were in the Legislature, I’d vote for this, but I’m not,” Florio said during the PUC meeting in San Francisco. “I think what the Legislature has said is clear: An individual fare is an individual fare, and we cannot go with this approach.”
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill a year ago to change a 50-year-old Californian law that bars passengers sharing a commercial ride from being charged separately.
The bill passed the Assembly in May in a 69-0 vote, but has since stalled in the Senate. The PUC vote gives Uber and Lyft the green light to operate carpooling services such as UberPool and Lyft Line. Those services had previously been able to operate because the PUC had chosen to not enforce the commercial carpooling law, acknowledging that it was out of date. Although the decision lets ride-hailing firms breathe a sigh of relief for now, the PUC isn’t done with them yet.
Two other items — one concerning driver background check requirements and another defining “personal vehicles” — were put on hold for further discussion.
Companies such as Uber and Lyft vehemently oppose adding fingerprinting to their driver background checks, arguing that the process is flawed and places an unnecessary burden on the firms. The taxi industry, which uses fingerprinting in its driver screenings, says Uber and Lyft should adhere to the same rules taxis follow.
• PUC confirms Uber and Lyft car-pooling services are legal in California.