Undercover Police Are Targeting Uber And Lyft Drivers To "Send A Message"

Posing as riders, officers are requesting rides and fining the drivers who pick them up.

Undercover police operations have been systematically targeting Uber and Lyft drivers by issuing citations totaling thousands of dollars in cities including Madison and Pittsburgh.

In Madison, a police sting operation from the weekend resulted in $1,300 in fines for drivers of both e-hailing companies. Officers in plain clothes used the startups' apps to summon rides and then cited the drivers for violating the city's taxi ordinances and for transporting passengers for hire without a license. A police captain in the traffic division said these fines are meant to "send a message that the city was not going to tolerate their operation without licensing."

It's a similar situation in Pittsburgh, which, as of Thursday, has issued 23 tickets, with penalties varying from $25 to $300, to drivers for operating without licenses. Uber, which says it's experienced the fastest growth in Pittsburgh, has been rallying riders in the city with the hashtag #PGHNeedsUber, asking them to contact state officials.

Lyft said it will pay the the drivers' fines as well as legal assistance. "We are in conversations with local leaders in these cities and hope to identify a path forward that will allow ridesharing to thrive," a representative told Fast Company. "These communities have all expressed excitement and enthusiasm around Lyft's arrival as a safe, fun and reliable transportation option." Reports suggest Uber will also cover the cost of these citations. We have also reached out to Uber and will update this post if we hear back.

[Image: Flickr user reynermedia]

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67 Comments

  • vbeth83

    I just served as a juror in one of these court cases. We were SO outraged that this is happening that we voted a big NOT GUILTY to send a message. How DARE the police waste their time, the court's time, and our time... on corporate politics!!! These cops are being paid more to investigate these drivers than to INVESTIGATE MURDERS OR TERRORISM! Because the LA Dept o/Transportation is paying them extra money to do this!!!! On top of that, the cops carry absolutely NO recording equipment with them whatsoever,,,on purpose. So that they can smudge the lines of what was said and convince you that these drivers broke the law. The cases have no eveidence but the cop's testimony. This is NOT the way our "justice" system is supposed to work. I'm ashamed to live in Losa Angleles right now.

  • Michael Roe

    Soooo..........while REAL crimes are being committed, Police Officers are spending their time and resources going after people who are out there trying to earn a living! Makes perfect sense to me, if you're into organized crime that is!!

  • Whitey White

    Why don't they license Uber and Lyft? because the mafia controls the regular old timey taxi companies by collecting protection money from the drivers and companies (fire insurance). with the customary kickbacks to the PD that's why!

  • Eric N Valerie

    They don't need to be licensed. Because the rides are "pre-arranged" through the app, they are considered a Charter, not a Taxi. They are only breaking the law if they stop to pick someone up OUTSIDE the arrangements of the app. Which is what the undercover cops try to get them to do.

  • Liz Miller

    Lyft and Uber have different strengths and weaknesses. I actually found a website that goes into even more in depth in comparing the two biggest ride-sharing companies, http://www.lyftvsuber.com/ - it compares cost, legality, safety, experience, driver benefits, the app, etc… It also has referral links to $25 of FREE CREDIT!!! awesome, right? I absolutely love using Lyft and Uber. Even though Uber is more popular, sometimes I find Lyft more fun. I love them both!

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    Watch this:

    http://youtu.be/KbmMkn1ryoc

    and THIS:

    http://youtu.be/laGZzZUHIzA

    THAT is why Lyft and Uber are illegal in Madison Wisconsin. California may be ok with companies that deny service based on the color of a person's skin and mangle pedestrians without paying a dime in compensation but that doesn't fly here. It never will. Cheers ;)

  • Eric N Valerie

    Have you ever been to California? Because I laughed so hard I almost started crying when I read your claim that we're ok with denying service based on skin color! That DOESN'T HAPPEN HERE. Whites are the minority in California, you psycho! Most drivers, and people being picked up, are NOT white! NO ONE HERE IS DENYING RIDES BASED ON RACE. I can tell you 100% it is NOT happening here. California is the MOST liberal state I've ever lived in in my entire life. We were the first to legalize gay marriage, and the first to legalize medical marijuana. Wisconsin can kiss our liberal ASSES.

  • Buck Brown

    You sound like a good lill subject. Keep repeating it maybe you will convince someone. So what if someone chooses tp avoid a certain neighborhood? It has nothing to do with skin color and all about safety. And sorry but accidents happen all the time.

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    Fortunately for LEGAL cab comapnies they PAY for accidents from this thing called INSURANCE. Each of the communities that Uber and Lyft have denied calls to have had ZERO crime compared to other parts of the city. Like yesterday's incident at the 2000 blk of E Washington. an area where lyft and Uber pick up. Of course there is one difference in that community. More white people.

  • Nelson Hermance

    The author of those youtube clips engaged in illegal wiretapping and that's a violation of all sorts of laws - and is just plain wrong.

    The hypocrisy is amazing. The guy claims to be interested in the law and following the rules and yet he violates the law -in a very serious way- himself. The law he is violating is way more serious than the taxi ordinance violations that he is claiming the Lyft driver are guilty of.

    Furthermore he publishes the picture and personal details of the Lyft driver and yet he hides behind a pseudonym himself.

    And he has no business or commercial interest in the existing cab system in Madison or anywhere else? I would ask him to publicly reveal who he is here and what his job is and post his picture. Do for himself what he did to that Lyft driver. Then we can investigate to see if he is really an "unbiased observer" just interested in public safety - or is in fact connected to the taxi industry in some way.

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    FYI, Lyft and UBer publicly publish a drivers name, picture and plate number on their apps home slice.

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    Then why are the videos still up and why Is the person who took them not in jail? He violated no law and there is no law that makes it illegal to record audio esspecially when you know what these drivers are doing is ILLEGAL. Just read the Lyft and Uber TOS pages some time. They are so full of contradictions and liability shifts that they would never hold up in a court of law. I'd LOVE to see Lyft, Uber or either of these drivers try to sue after what they admit to on these videos.

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    I have to give Alice Truong a golf clap for joining the mountain of bloggers and fringe authors who have shoved their own feet in their mouths by doing no actual research on the subject of Uber or Lyft. All you have to do is READ the TOS pages for these companies to see what a scam this is. But, like so many other jaded cyber flunkies of the day, you dive in with not a single glange at what you are signing off on. Lyft and Uber are trapped by their apps because they force a customer to register with a credit card. there are already ride share apps (and will be more) that operate without this. There are also some that run actual ride share calculations for more than one fare at a time. What Uber and Lyft has is dangerous and antiquated. Cheers :)

  • Eric N Valerie

    ....Yes. So dangerous and antiquated that every single person I know uses them, and they are putting the 9 taxi franchises in LA out of business. YOU are the one who has done no research.

  • Justin Effing La Plante

    These are two companies that operate an antiquated version of ride share apps that one of Madison's LEGAL ride share companies have been using for FOUR YEARS now. Not to mention that anyone who actually takes the time to READ a service term page can see that Uber and Lyft's TOS pages INVALIDATE ANY INSURANCE COVERAGE for any incident or accident that may happen during a ride. These are just a few reasons that Lyft and Uber are illegal in Madison Wisconsin. People actually know how to read here. Both of these companies have millions racked up in unpaid damages and deaths to people who weren't even ridding in these vehicles. They were simply in the way when their moron drivers ran red lights and took blind corners at 50mph. This has nothing to do with halting technology or it's use to advance transportation. It has everything to do with two companies trying to cram a turd version of this technology down the public's socket and cutting corners by not using valid insurance.