What the Hell Is Up With All the L.A. Cab Drama, Huh?: Explained

According to the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, there are nine franchise taxi operators in the city who operate “more than 2300 taxis.” What they don’t point out on the website is that these 2300 taxis are magic and invisible. They supposedly exist, but they’re hiding somewhere in plain sight, probably with that stockpile of nice, tall, well-adjusted, employed, and single men in LA.

Someone should do something about this, right?

Totally! Enter Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, tech startups looking to address these transportation shortages in big cities. These popular “ridesharing” companies use apps to match up needy passengers with nonprofessional drivers quickly and cheaply. They’ve been gaining popularity in recent months, especially in Los Angeles where complaints about cab availability and cab drivers are commonly heard while people drunkenly walk to their cars to drive home.

So we could stop drunk driving and support ridesharing? This sounds like a total win-win for everyone.

Not according to the cease-and-desist letter sent Monday to the companies and Tuesday’s cab driver protest at City Hall. Citing a lack of “permits or license to transport passengers for hire,” all three companies have been ordered to “cease and desist from picking up passengers in Los Angeles.”

Should I just go ahead and delete my apps then?

Nope. Both Lyft and Uber told LA Weekly that they will continue running. Co-founder of Lyft, John Zimmer, explains, “Our understanding is that we have this legal operating agreement for the entire state of California” as made clear in the California Public Utilities Commission Operating Agreement with Uber.

And their social media presence confirms that they're defying the order: Uber is still here, Lyft will “continue as usual,” and Sidecar wants you to ignore everything and meet Nick, your LA driver and surf instructor.

But by violating the order, Thomas Drischler, Los Angeles Taxicab Adminstrator, says Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar can “look forward to having their drivers arrested,” citing Lyft’s pink mustaches as an obvious way to track down and arrest drivers.

But those Lyft mustaches really are the worst though, right?

Totally. I think we can all agree they’re the fucking worst. Why, Lyft, why?

According to Lyft co-founder John Zimmer’s AMA on reddit earlier this week, he says the mustaches are there to “start each Lyft experience with a bit of delight and joy” and “to create physical virality through word of mouth.”

So the mustaches aren’t just lame, they’re physically viral? Perhaps we should all take a step back from this situation and send a cease-and-desist letter (filled with delight and joy) to the Lyft creative team, making clear that mustaches help no one’s cause.

Mustaches aside, I love these things: is there anything I can do to help?

There’s a petition circulating that outlines the problems with the “broken” taxi system:

Cabs in LA are expensive and often late, cab drivers are rude and drive erratically endangering pedestrians, other drivers and passengers alike, and payment options are limited as most cab drivers refuse to accept credit cards.

The movement is gaining momentum as political juggernauts Samantha Ronson, Pete Yorn, and Jaleel “cease & desist my ass” White are speaking out in support of the companies. Yes, Urkel is on your side! Like you, he understands the indignities of walking around downtown LA at night, drunk, alone, and crying, wondering how you’ll ever get home and oh God why did I move to this fucking town in the first place?

I feel like they're taking away everything I love. First they came for Lyft. What’s next: the unlicensed bacon-wrapped hot dog vendors?

No fucking way. As California has recently passed AB 1252, a bill that legally defines what a hot dog can be, it’s clear lawmakers are currently on the hot dog’s side.

Art by Sam Woolley.