If Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was unaware UberX drivers have been ticketed by police, he’s got a good idea now.
Wednesday, BostInno reported at least one UberX driver has been ticketed by Boston Police for illegally operating a for-hire vehicle.
Helene Servillon, 24, was inside one UberX when her driver was pulled over by an alleged undercover BPD officer May 16. Servillon’s driver was cited for operating as a taxi without a Hackney Unit-authorized medallion.
Coincidentally, Servillon’s driver gave me a lift from Chelsea to Faneuil Hall a few days later, on May 22. En route, the driver detailed the traffic stop and showed me a picture of a $500 ticket that was issued by a BPD undercover officer.
Originally, the driver agreed to send the picture by phone, however, I never received it. The following day, I contacted the driver, who proceeded to explain an Uber “boss” did not want a picture of the ticket distributed to the media.
BostInno has exchanged several emails with an Uber spokesperson about the $500 citation. Uber would not comment specifically on company management’s knowledge of the incident or whether the driver would – or had, already – been reimbursed for paying the fine.
In a prepared statement, Uber did acknowledge the incident would be investigated: “We stand behind our driver partners and are looking into this issue, however as a matter of policy we take both rider and driver privacy seriously and will not disclose private information.”
BostInno has left multiple messages with a BPD spokesperson, but none of our calls have been returned.
The incident that took place May 16 was not the first of its kind; evidence of this was posted on BostInno’s Facebook page Wednesday night.
At 251 Newbury Street, an officer issued a $500 fine to one driver who “was observed picking up passenger illegally,” the ticket states.
BostInno reached out to Uber Thursday morning for a follow-up, but did not immediately receive comment.
The BPD’s Hackney Unit is under the watch of Police Commissioner Bill Evans – who answers to Mayor Walsh. Both the mayor and police commissioner were recently targeted by the Boston Taxi Drivers Association, which organized a “rolling rally” protest at Uber Boston headquarters Thursday, May 22.
The BTDA claims that unregulated, for-hire services pose threats to public safety and threaten the livelihoods of licensed Boston cabbies who drive for one of the city’s seven regulated taxi companies.
The taxi union has demanded the police commissioner sweep UberX vehicles and drivers off the streets, until app-based ride-sharing services are regulated and vetted.
In February, Evans told WBZ he hoped for more public regulation Boston “gypsy cabs” services.
“They regulate themselves. We are just concerned with who is driving the cab and are they of suitable character? And right now there is no mechanism to make sure of that,” Evans told WBZ, targeting Uber, specifically.
Mayor Walsh, however, has not advocated publicly for such a crackdown. “We cannot turn a blind eye to public safety concerns around unregulated modes of transportation, but we also cannot condemn a popular, effective service that takes responsible steps to ensure the safety of their users,” Walsh said in previous statement.
Still, the fact remains: multiple drivers have been issued $500 tickets by BPD officers for picking up passengers in “illegal for-hire vehicles.” But Mayor Walsh, until perhaps last Friday, was unaware this had been happening.
On Boston Public Radio last Friday, May 23, one caller asked the mayor to address the topic. Walsh seemed surprised by the caller’s question, and denied knowledge of BPD officers ticketing Uber or Lyft drivers. He stressed the City was not actively cracking down on drivers for either company, and also noted, since UberX cars are unmarked, there’s no obvious way for police to target drivers.
But, it appears, that’s exactly what is happening.