Good read

LA's war against jitneys

jitneys-kcet.jpgTwo good stories within a week on the uneasy relationship in Los Angeles with lone wolf car services and drivers. In his always interesting Laws That Shaped LA series for the KCET website, Jeremy Rosenberg traces the history of the Los Angeles ban on jitneys, "cousins of taxicabs and descendants of stagecoaches" that were popular here in the 19-teens. The car and tire companies didn't kill the LA street railways, but the railways — or one of them — brought about the restriction on roving cars that would pick up riders without buying into the taxicab regulation system.

Why did jitneys become so popular so suddenly, only to stall and sputter into Americana museums, Historic Filipinotown pride and joy and NSFW Hamptons tunes?...In great part, because jitneys were out-lobbied -- then and to this day -- by large transportation authorities or companies. In Los Angeles, the illegalization of jitneys came via a series of laws supported by the Los Angeles Railway, owners and operators of some of the city's fabled streetcars.

A 1922 summary of the 1917 law read in part: "In California, the operator of automobiles engaged in carriage must obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the [Railroad] Commission, except those operating in good faith at the time the act became effective."

Another key line: "The Commission, in denying an application for a certificate of convenience and necessity for the operation of a stage line, said: 'No person has a vested right to engage in a public utility service.'"

In the current LA Weekly, Gene Maddaus looks into why the LAPD spends time and money cracking down on limo drivers who pick up passengers at hotels like the Figueroa downtown. Local law classifies them as bandit taxis.

[Andy] Chung, 65, is a state-licensed limo driver, with valid registration and insurance. Nevertheless, he had run afoul of the byzantine licensing scheme that governs taxi services. And he was about to pay dearly for it.

At a court hearing in March, Chung refused to accept a plea bargain. He believed he had followed the rules. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to 150 days behind bars.

"It was so bleak," Chung tells the Weekly, through a Korean interpreter. "It was really unfair and unthinkable what they did to me, for such a minor thing."

If you've ever taken a taxi in L.A., you've paid a fee for "bandit taxi enforcement." Every year, taxi passengers pay about $800,000 in such fees, which cover overtime for LAPD officers to pursue illicit cab drivers.

Photo: Boarding jitneys for a real estate development tour of Hollywoodland, 1928. Los Angeles Public Library

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