The true story about the CPUC OIR regarding Lyft, Sidecar and Uber – UPDATED

Below are links to all the documents that have been submitted to the CPUC during the proceedings regarding rulemaking for what the CPUC calls New Online Enabled Transportation Systems or NOETS.

This proceeding was started when the NOETS filed petitions with the CPUC for a chance to prove themselves to state regulators. The CPUC Safety Enforcement Division (SED) TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED the cease and desist orders and $20,000 fines levied against the NOETS in order to facilitate the proceeding.  The CPUC SED required the NOETS to sign agreements with the SED insuring that a few guidelines were followed. I have included the Uber and Lyft agreements here and will update it with Sidecar’s very late agreement when I get it in hand.  As you can see when you read those agreements and the rest of the filings below, they clearly have violated the TEMPORARY operating agreements that they so proudly and fraudulently tout in the media as being “state approval” to operate as they have been doing.  As you will see this is just the beginning of their deceptive tactics.

San Francisco cab drivers should know that this proceeding is the exact reason why the SFMTA has not been allowed to enforce the existing laws.  Mayor Ed Lee (who had cab industry support) has directed the SFMTA and the SFPD to not actively enforce the SF Transportation code we are seeing repeatedly violated hundreds (if not thousands) of times every day.

NOTE: The documents are shown in rough order of their intended filing.  There are some additional supporting documents included at the end for reference sake.

So lets dig in…. The Administrative Law Judge appointed by the CPUC board to oversee the rulemaking proceedings and make a recommendation to the board issued his scoping memo, and many participating groups commented.  The minor ones of less importance and substance were left out here but we did include the three larger players in the “steal from the taxis” business.  The Opening Comments were full of the NOETS trying to redefine words like “for profit” and “work related”.  They pontificated about reducing congestion and being green, while publicly recruiting drivers and advertising to the public that they are taxi services (just search the app store for taxi). When you read the arguments, you can see how the regulators are willing to consider innovative apps that do actually facilitate REAL ridesharing and condemn the NOETS for not following the letter of the law.  Furthermore, the regulators offer glowing endorsements to apps that actually work within the existing laws.

CPUC Scoping Memo

Opening Comments:
International Association of Transportation Regulators / San Francisco MTA / SFO Airport
Taxi Paratransit Association of California / SFCDA / Taxi Limo Paratransit Association
Personal Insurance Federation CA / Electronic Freedom Foundation / Center for Accessible Technology
Transform / Lyft / Sidecar / Uber

Next everyone replied to the previous comments and it started getting heated:
Lyft / Sidecar

While all this was happening other groups started wanting to weigh in on the proceedings and some of their filings took a bit to filter through, the best one came from the CHP ripping the NOETS as not being ridesharing and that they pose many risks including lack of insurance and vehicle safety.  The ALJ called for a joint workshop to discuss the scoping memo and to investigate if there needed to be a “third way” regulatory structure for the NOETS or if the existing regulations were enough and what the impacts of this would be. Everyone was invited to file pre-workshop statements answering a set of questions post by the ALJ in his ruling. The ALJ also ruled about this time that no evidentiary hearings would take place however he would be open to discovery provided certain simple and fair guidelines were followed.

Pre-Workshop Comments:
Transform / Lyft / Sidecar / Uber

The Workshop was next and what a show that was. The over all feeling was that the workshop and the CPUC were somehow biased towards the NOETS and their suggested (and completely asinine) “third way” regulatory approach. So as you can imagine it got very heated at times, with the NOETS being accused of insurance fraud and words like “innovation haters”, “criminals” and “dumb bitch” being tossed around. It was none too pretty and two lawyers from opposite viewpoints on the validity of the NOETS volunteered to document this circus and create a joint report. Joint workshop report.

While we were waiting for the joint workshop report to come out the ALJ requested some info from the NOETS with regard to the so-called insurance policies that they keep touting as being “umbrella” polices. The responses were to be submitted under seal as the NOETS complained that their “policies” were proprietary and they did not want them being made public (real trustworthy wouldn’t you say). Here is the response from Uber (and when I dig up the rest I will include those as well).

After the workshop the ALJ granted requests for an opportunity to comment on the workshop and about this time TPAC filed its initial discovery requests. The proceedings get really interesting from here on in.

TPAC Discovery Request to Lyft / TPAC Discovery Request to Sidecar / TPAC Discovery Request to Uber

And then the post workshop comments:
SFMTA / TPAC / SFCDA / Center for Accessible Technology / Luxor Cab
And of course the NOETS just had to continue with their now slightly modified tune, modified as they attempt to counter all the blatant missteps on their part and the attempts to quash the reality of what they are doing are pure hilarity. Who do these people think they are?
Lyft / Sidecar / Uber

Everyone was allowed to file replies again and it really got silly with some of the arguments of the NOETS, however they start to change their tone even more now that they see they are getting backed into a corner with evidence filed by everyone else. TPAC’s final reply comments were the best of the bunch calling out the CPUC and the NOETS with massive evidence showing what a crock the whole proceeding seemed to be and how the NOETS are blatantly operating as taxis and should be regulated as such.
SFCDA / TPAC / TURN / Transform / Lyft / Sidecar /

After the final reply comments were filed, TPAC filed a scathing motion to compel discovery directed at Lyft, Sidecar and Uber. Needless to say they gave some pretty weak excuses and reasons why they should not have to comply. Read on and be entertained.
TPAC Motion to Compel / Exhibit of NOET responses / Sidecar response / Uber response / Lyft response

As would be expected TPAC hammered them right back.

The ALJ chose to wait for the dust to die down before he responded with a statement that he would be issuing his ruling soon and that discovery was not needed to make his ruling and that his ruling would come soon.

Now some days passed without a peep from anyone. Then out of the blue the CHP filing finally was served on everyone despite the fact that it was filed much earlier. TPAC almost immediately filed a response in support of the CHP position and that the all the positions posited by all the parties to the proceeding, except the NOETS, agreed with the CHP position.

That leaves us where we are now…. waiting for the final ruling from the ALJ before the CPUC decides whether to follow his suggestions or make up their own course of action.

Below are a few of the documents that have come out elsewhere and have been referenced to in the proceeding. The Austin Ridesharing report has a really interesting quote from Christiane Hyashi of the SFMTA taxi section about Mayor Ed Lee and his public support of such blatantly illegal actions by the NOETS: ““Our Mayor, from a broad economic development perspective, has supported technological innovation and “the sharing economy.” The Mayor’s view is not shared by this local taxi regulator when it comes to the specific businesses Lyft and SideCar.”

In the “Ridesharing Applications Report: Illegal Hitchhiking for Hire or Sustainable Group Riding?” report they delve deep into all “ridesharing” apps and expose Lyft and Sidecar as being the biggest offenders of illegal taxi like operations. A very informative read for anyone that wants to know who the players are and how they all fit together in the grand scheme of the growing demand for more efficient use of personal automobiles. As proponents of true innovation we at the SFCDA see how when properly implemented, actual, true ridesharing apps can peacefully coexist with other forms of transportation. Lyft, Sidecar and UberX are plainly not innovative or ridesharing and really should be and will likely be shut down.

One of the documents that was referenced in the proceeding and filed along with one of our filings and TPAC’s as well is the (ominously dated) report on deregulation in Seattle that occurred more recently than any other civic experiment in taxi deregulation in the U.S. with disastrous results for the community. Seattle is still recovering from this failed experiment to this day almost 25 years later.

And finally the one document that the NOETS keep referring to as supporting their position although it clearly does not. The letter from the Federal Trade Commission to the Colorado PUC with regard to their rulemaking about Uber. The FTC quite clearly states that these type of apps (limo booking) have the potential to open up an industry that, due to regulation, could use some revised rules to benefit the industry. They do not endorse taxi like behavior nor do they endorse faux ridesharing acting as defacto taxis for a profit. Yet another good read, but should be taken with a giant grain of salt due to its intentionally vague nature.

The fight is not over yet and we will continue updating this page as new things happen and there are new developments specifically in San Francisco that will affect the taxi business. Stay tuned. The SHITS are about to hit the fan.


The proposed decision by the CPUC was published on July 30th with comments due from the participating parties on August 19th.  TPAC requested a 30 day extension with the support of legislators, mayors and all the parties with the exception of Lyft, Sidecar and Uber (big surprise there).  In the proposed decision the CPUC President Peavey and ALJ Mason correctly determine that the NOETS are in fact not ridesharing but for profit transportation companies.  Although this is a huge step in the right direction the rest of the proposed decision basically suggests that they be regulated as a light version of the already lax enforced TCP permits.  The proposed decision is essentially two steps forward and three steps back.  They fail to adequately address numerous topics the least of which being vehicle age and limits on driving hours.  The proposed decision also leaves it up to the TNCs (as they are referred to) to essentially self regulate, something that is quite unwise considering the CPUC lacks enforcement capability of their current regulations.  You can read the proposed decision here.

The 30 day extension to comment request by TPAC was summarily denied by ALJ Mason on the day before the comments were due with his argument being that they had to reach a decision quickly for public safety reasons.


On August 19th 2013 all the comments came pouring in.  Below are links to comments filed.

Willie Brown / E-RideShare / TPAC / TLPA / GCLA / IATR / SFCDA / SFMTA / LA DOT / TransForm / Lyft / Sidecar, and Appendix / Uber / Ed Healy

Sidecar of course does not want the vehicle inspections because that means they will have to do away with their current policy of uploading a picture to their website.
Lyft is also suggesting modifications that would benefit them and their profits.  Again no surprise there.
Everyone else, with the exception of Uber, Willie Brown and Transform, is talking sensibly about the lack of enforcement capabilities of the CPUC and the very weak recommendations that do nothing to prevent abuse and fraud, something that is already rampant in the TCP arena.  Many of the sensible suggestions include creation of multiple barriers to entry for both drivers and companies and the obvious requirement to give local jurisdictions to impose further regulations protecting their rights to regulate the number of vehicles for hire.  All of the sensible parties say almost identical things yet the self interested TNCs seem to be hoping for the most lax regulations possible, likely relying on continuing the existing non-enforcement of existing regulations.  It will be a sad state of affairs if the CPUC can’t see the light and do the right thing by conceding they do not have the ability to enforce any regulations and hand it over to local agencies.


Reply comments were filed by most of the parties on August 26th.  There was the expected whining by the TNCs about things proposed, commented on and a little bit of new information sneakily put in to the comments.  The TNCs stuck by their previous claims to safety and insurance which were also ripped apart by the parties not on their side.  The brazen arrogance of the TNCs continues counter to the level headed reply comments by the opposing parties based in logic and reason.  Read the comments at the links below for entertainment and enlightenment.  Many of the parties made mention of the lack of enforcement capability of the CPUC with current TCP regulations, and the line was held that they should defer regulation to the cities while requiring some over arching rules including permanent identifying markings, no TOS like the TNCs currently have and most importantly the insurance issues.  The PIFC again knocked it out of the park again illustrating that for someone driving commercially for Lyft, Sidecar or UberX, if they have an accident coverage would not exist.  While this was going on TPAC re-filed comments on the denial of the their Motion To Compel Discovery.

SFCDA / Lyft / Sidecar / TLPA / IATR / TPAC and amendment / PIFC / CAT / Luxor Cab

Post filing of the Reply Comments President Peavey sent out a subtly revised proposed decision that although a tiny bit better, still failed to address the fact that the burden of enforcement still falls on local jurisdictions without giving the same jurisdictions the ability to regulate the numbers on their streets.

On August 28th some members of the sane side of this whole debacle, got together with an aide to Commissioner Sandoval  to discuss some of their concerns.  This resulted in Commissioner Sandoval calling for an all party meeting on September 3rd wherein a number of key issues were presented to the parties for comment.  In this highly structured format there was little leeway given to the parties to go outside the boundaries of the topics at hand.  John Zimmer did manage to drop the non-word “irregardless” a few times, making the older and more experienced members of the audience chuckle.  Sunil Paul did his best to sound “green” and really just showed he is part of the sharewashing/greenwashing team with his arrogance.  This was capped off by a shameful comment at the end by Pres. Peevey about how the 20 somethings like it, so why not let it happen.

On the 5th of September the commissioners were set to vote and late the night before announced that they would be holding back the vote at least until the next meeting on September 19th.  Rumor has it that one of the commissioners is having misgivings about much of the proposed decision and may suggest some major changes.  Either way public comment had a few speakers in support of Sidecar and one for Lyft. The taxi supporters ranged from a real estate agent speaking about people attempting to enter his car when he would stop to take pictures and the horrendously unsafe driving being done by the TNCs, to longtime taxi drivers giving impassioned pleas  for logic and understanding by the commission for the profound effects a poorly made decision could bring.

(to be continued)



6 thoughts on “The true story about the CPUC OIR regarding Lyft, Sidecar and Uber – UPDATED

  1. You go! Great synopsis! Many thanks… I keep sayin “it’s all about the insurance” (Well, 1st, foremost and most blatantly). Amazing that in support of his daughter’s Lyft investment Mayor Ed Lee is betraying the very public good he swore to defend!

    1. As much as I hate to defend our clueless mayor, his daughters do not have any investment or involvement with Lyft at all. He has no traceable financial stake in the success or failure of Lyft. He just fell for their lies and sales pitch. He needs to have some sense slapped into him, and quickly.

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