LA's Taxis Could Soon Work A Lot Like Uber

A taxi driver smokes a cigarette in his cab while waiting to pick up a fare in downtown Los Angeles, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Taxis in Los Angeles could operate a lot more like Uber and Lyft, under new rules that are being pitched to the city.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation presented a set of reforms to the L.A. City Council's transportation committee on Wednesday that would place all of the city's taxis under a single, centralized dispatch system. They could be requested by phone or with an app. And passengers would know the cost of their rides before getting into the car.

If that sounds more like ride-hailing, that's exactly the idea.

"What we want to do is try to give them a level playing field to allow them to operate in a more competitive environment," said Jarvis Murray, for-hire policy and enforcement administrator for the LADOT.

He said the rules for L.A. taxis have been so overly structured that competing with Uber and Lyft has been difficult. Taxis have lost 75 percent of their business since 2012.

But taxis provide a valuable service to people who use a wheelchair or lack a credit card or cell phone.

"We hope to improve the customer service so that our people — our elderly, our disabled, our unbanked and anybody who takes a taxicab in Los Angeles has a better user experience," Murray said.

The proposed rules would also lift the cap on the number of taxis in the city and remove the requirement that they be certain colors.

If ultimately approved by the city council, the new system would take effect before the end of 2020.