Cab drivers: Uber, Lyft have unfair advantage in Va.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two Transportation Network Companies have recently been given the green light to operate in Virginia, changing the landscape of the local taxi industry.

Last week the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb granted Uber and Lyft temporary operating authority within the state.

DOCUMENT: DMV letter to Uber

The two companies have different business models, but both provide a new way for people to catch a ride around town. Uber calls itself ride sharing, while Lyft refers to its peer-to-peer business model. With both companies, a passenger connects with and pays for rides through the companies’ smartphone apps.

But not everyone is excited to see Uber and Lyft in the Commonwealth or in Hampton Roads.

“As long as they’re legal,” said cab driver Jayare Nickerson. “I don’t expect illegal cabs to do business. They just can’t do it.”

With the temporary operating authority, Uber and Lyft are now legal, according to the DMV. However, local taxicabs drivers are frustrated the companies continued to operate in Virginia after receiving cease and desist letters in June.

DOCUMENT: DMV letter to Lyft

“Since they have been doing business illegally and blatantly, I don’t believe they should be granted a business license as a reward for their illegal operations,” said John Paffrath, who owns Sandbridge Taxi and also serves as the president of the Virginia Beach Cab Association.

Both Nickerson and Paffrath are adamant, they don’t mind competition in Virginia Beach. They don’t feel Uber, Lyft, and taxicab companies are operating on an even playing field, as of now.

“There’s rules out here for a reason, and that’s why we follow them,” Nickerson said.

Taxicab drivers in Virginia Beach and several other Hampton Roads cities are permitted and regulated through the city government, while getting certain licensing through the state. Paffrath explained the city sets cab companies’ rates and determines where they can pick up. He said, cab drivers can only pick up in the city they’re registered in.

DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen said Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft, are not regulated by the cities as of now. Permanent regulations for these companies are still under review. Until then, the DMV has a list of conditions the businesses must meet.

The DMV is requiring Uber and Lyft to meet a long list of conditions to operate temporarily in the state. Governor Terry McAuliffe recently summarized the conditions, like extensive background checks for drivers and insurance requirements.

The DMV commissioner said concerns from cab companies were taken into consideration when reaching their recent decision, and the ultimate goal with permanent regulations is to make sure they’re ensuring an even playing field for all companies.

The DMV is currently conducting a study on transportation and mobile apps, like the ones Uber and Lyft use. The study will come up with long-term legislation to regulate these companies.

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