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.

the uber logo

Photo: Uber

Since companies like Uber and Lyft have come into the Honolulu market, taxi drivers have expressed concern that they will lose customers and revenue.

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.”

Taxicabs like these are highly regulated in Honolulu, and the new bill under consideration would force Uber and Lyft drivers to operate under the same restrictions.

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.




    • That’s a good point. One thing’s for sure–Uber and Lyft aren’t very happy about the new proposal, and potential clients looking to save money on transportation aren’t either.

  1. I didn’t know Uber existed until New Year’s Eve. I think it is a wonderful alternative to taxi cabs. We got the royal treatment from a very well mannered, polite and articulate driver who arrived promptly in an immaculate car and we knew up front the exact cost of the ride. The Uber service is a good thing for people who need a ride at a reasonable cost. I am against any legislation to limit our freedom of choice i.e. SB 85.

  2. I am a Lyft driver,
    And all i hear from my customers are that taxi drivers are not friendly they try to go the long way around and get more from the customer . most say that credit card machine doesn’t work and tell the customer to go to a ATM to give cash. some of the vehicles are filthy and most don’t speak English on top of that they drive crazy . I am sure there are probably a few good ones out there. but 99% of the stories i hear are not good ones. The Public appreciates Lyft and Uber, the fact that one the prices are affordable everything is done on the phone and no money needs to exchange hands. Thats the future. Do you go and buy a car with out coming to a price i think not. This is technology also the drivers are on a rating system so the drivers will drive according to laws of the road and being safe is number one priority. if the driver falls below a certain rating he is gone that’s the future folks

  3. Why always when a new business comes to Hawaii the State intervene to now regulate how to do business?
    The City Council says it is unfair to Taxis? I believe that is they choice to be a taxi driver! Technology is the future
    not old school services! If the taxi drivers are afraid of losing business than hop on the band wagon! I believe that 90% of the taxi drivers won’t pass the Uber and Lyft training because they can’t pass the ratings from their customers! Once you fail you are gone as a driver! Taxi drivers don’t care about customer service!

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