A federal lawsuit filed by the San Antonio taxicab industry seeks to have the 'ride sharing' firms 'Lyft' and 'Uber' declared 'corrupt enterprises' and barring Lyft from doing business in the city, 1200 WOAI news has learned.
"We must stop unlicensed transportation services who merely skim the most profitable trips, and ignore not only their civic duty, but their legal duty, to serve all of the passengers in San Antonio," said John Bouloubasis, the President of Yellow Cab of San Antonio, in a sworn deposition obtained by 1200 WOAI news.
The lawsuit claims that unlike traditional, licensed tax services, which install expensive equipment to enable them to carry disabled passengers, and who provide transportation to all people on all parts of town, Lyft merely 'takes the most profitable fares,' and declines to carry individuals in wheelchairs and who require other 'mobility enhancement devices' because Lyft drivers simply use their own cars.
Attorney Martyn Hill, who represents the taxi drivers, says Lyft is also skirting all of the fees, regulations, and other requirements of operating a taxi service in San Antonio.
"You can imagine how my clients feel when they have to pay millions of dollars in Texas and millions of dollars in license fees, and comply with all these regulations," Hill told 1200 WOAI news.
Lyft calls itself 'your friend with a car' and says its operations are no different than you asking a friend to take you to the store and reimbursing that friend the gas money. It doesn't have 'fares' but has 'passengers' and it doesn't charge a 'fare' but asks for a 'donation.'
The lawsuit claims Lyft's business model, which requires a person who wants a ride to use a smart phone app to summon a driver, and pay for the ride with a debit card, excludes the poor, who frequently don't have smart phones or access to banking, and Hill says that is discriminatory and illegal.
"Long term, if they continue to operate, there is going to be huge damages from taking the profitable trips that the cab drivers are losing."
The lawsuit also claims that Lyft is discriminatory in the way it operates, including pages from the Lyft web site bragging that Lyft rides are available 'from downtown to north side' and saying nothing about Lyft services in lower income parts of the city.
"Regardless of whether it is pejoratively described as 'discrimination against minorities and the poor,' or more euphemistically championed as 'market segmentation, hot spot focus, surge pricing, and driven by market forces,' the result is the same, Bouloubasis said. "The unequal and disparate transportation of passengers in San Antonio.'
"Absent strong laws designed to prevent discrimination and enforcement of those laws, drivers and affiliated transportation providers will inherently focus on the profitable trips and avoid the unprofitable ones," he said.
The lawsuit says Lyft is continuing to provide 'illegal transportation services' even after Police Chief William MacManus issued a cease and desist order.'
Hill says he hopes to ask for a temporary restraining order to block Lyft from operating in San Antonio by the end of this month.