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If you’re coming to Hawaii and plan on using a peer-to-peer car service like Uber or Lyft, you may soon notice they seem an awful lot like taxicabs. That’s because the Honolulu City Council is considering a proposal that would expand the definition of taxicab to include Uber and Lyft, which means the companies would essentially have to play by the same rules.
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Bill 85, introduced by Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Council Member Ann Kobayashi, would mean big changes for residents and visitors who are used to ordering an Uber or Lyft car and getting an upfront quote.
Instead, the new bill would require Uber and Lyft drivers to go through the city taxi-certification process. So, any vehicles used to transport passengers for hire would have to be equipped with a taximeter, rooftop sign or dome light, and fares would have to be posted. Drivers would be prohibited from using a GPS device to measure distance and calculate fares.
Violators could face a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The reason for the change? Many taxi drivers feel it’s not fair for taxis to compete with peer-to-peer car services like Uber and Lyft. “Taxi drivers have been asking for a level playing field,” Kobayashi told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “If they have to be certified, they would like all drivers to be certified.”
The new definition of taxicab companies would include any entity that “functions as an intermediary between the passenger for hire and the taxicab or taxicab driver, and receives a portion of the consideration paid by the passenger for hire for the transportation provided, regardless of whether the intermediary performs its function entirely or in part using any form or type of technology.”
The definition of taxicab would include any motor vehicle that is “directed to a destination by the passenger for hire or on the passenger’s behalf and operates on call or demand.”
Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said the company was still studying the proposal.
“We are aware of the bill,” she told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “We are working through it and processing the bill.”
She added that other cities have also taken steps to regulate ride-hailing companies.
“Certainly we’ve seen bills crop up in other markets,” she told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Lyft spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt said, “Current rules surrounding taxis and limos were created long before anything like Lyft’s peer-to-peer model was ever imagined. We look forward to continuing conversations with Honolulu City Council on creating new rules for our peer-to-peer model, as have many other states and major cities across the country.”
Perhaps the best way to avoid the taxicab-trap is to book an all-inclusive vacation package like the Oahu Super-Saver through Hawaii Aloha Travel. When you do so, all your transportation is included, so you don’t have to worry about getting from here to there.
But, if you’re planning to use Uber or Lyft in Hawaii, you may want to manage your expectations—they may just be taxicabs in disguise.