A controversial vote to set specific regulations for rideshare services in California and put them in a category of their own has been put on hold until Sept. 19, and the delay has sparked hope among taxi drivers who are bitter about their tech-savvy competitors.
The announcement at the start of a California Public Utilities Commission meeting Thursday came from President Michael Peevey, who proposed regulations requiring what would be called Transportation Network Companies to have insurance policies more stringent than those for limousines, background checks on drivers, a driver training program, and a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs.
Only two days earlier, Commissioner Catherine Sandoval had called a special meeting for San Francisco-based Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, along with similar rideshare services, taxi companies and other stakeholders, asking that they further address insurance, safety and accessibility.
Sandoval's concern with the three issues has some vocal taxi drivers feeling cautiously optimistic that Peevey's proposal may get challenged. Requiring that the ride services obtain full commercial insurance would be a starting point, said Trevor Johnson, a director of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association.
"We're all crossing our fingers and hoping [Sandoval] proposes something sensible and realistic," said Johnson, who drives for Luxor Cab.
Sandoval could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Public-comment sessions around the proposed regulations have been inundated with taxi drivers, but a handful on the other side spoke up at Thursday's meeting in San Francisco.
David Salavarry, 62, a carpenter and cabinet maker who became a Sidecar driver four months ago for extra income, said he would like the startup to provide insurance as long as he isn't deducted more than the 20 percent already taken away. But the vote delay has him "very concerned."
"What seems to be happening is there is a political move afoot to quash the new ridesharing -- to basically put out of business a brand new industry that the public loves and drivers love in order to maintain the status quo," Salavarry said.
At the meeting in two weeks, commissioners can accept Peevey's proposed regulations with a majority vote, reject them, hold the vote again or introduce a new proposal for consideration.