Illegal Ops Could Face Stiffer Penalties At San Francisco Airport

Posted on March 31, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Proposed legislation would crack down on limo gypsies trying to solicit rides on airport property that undercut legal operators.

SAN MATEO, Calif. — Legislation is in the works to increase the penalty for pirate limousine drivers at San Francisco International Airport from a simple infraction to a misdemeanor.

Assembly Bill 1885, authored by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, provides law enforcement the necessary tools to reduce the prevalence of unauthorized limousine drivers that are illegally soliciting business at SFO.

Hill is a frequent visitor to the airport and one late night, he went to grab a taxicab after a flight home and was solicited by a limousine driver. Hill, having some knowledge of state law, knew the gentleman offering the limo ride was probably breaking the law.

“Limo drivers are not supposed to solicit at the airport,” Hill said. “A pirate limo is not licensed to pick up passengers at the airport.”

To help law enforcement keep pirate limos out of SFO, Hill is crafting legislation that would increase the punishment to drivers who illegally solicit for passengers at the airport from an infraction to a misdemeanor.

Due to a 1973 exemption, San Francisco police officers do not have adequate enforcement authority to monitor unauthorized limousine drivers from illegally soliciting business on airport grounds, according to Hill’s office.

SFO is owned and operated by the city and county of San Francisco. The officers that patrol SFO are San Francisco police officers. However, the airport is in San Mateo County. Consequently, when SFO has an issue with limousine drivers who illegally solicit customers at the airport, SFPD officers at the airport cannot arrest the drivers or impound their vehicles based on San Francisco police powers as they would be able to do within the boundaries of San Francisco. Those powers do not extend to San Mateo County, according to Hill’s office.

Limousine drivers who conduct airport pickups at SFO must have valid California Public Utility Commission licenses and have a “way bill,” which is a prearranged reservation with the airport for a specific passenger.

Two situations currently occurring at SFO are putting consumers’ safety in jeopardy. The first is when a limousine driver has a valid PUC (California Public Utilities) license, but is illegally soliciting business at the airport. However, because of the existing exemptions on limousines, SFPD cannot cite the driver for illegal solicitation.

The second scenario is when a limousine driver is soliciting business at the airport without having a legal PUC license or using a fake TCP (Transportation Charter Permit) number. This is the worst scenario because there is no way of verifying the safety of the driver or the vehicle, according to Hill’s office.

Source: The Daily Journal (San Mateo, Calif.)

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