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ZIRO, new ride-hailing service, reinstated at Sonoma County airport after permit suspension

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New ride-hailing company ZIRO is back in business at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport after its failure to file paperwork with the California Public Utilities Commission caused it to lose its permit ahead of Thanksgiving.

But the company and the CPUC remain in dispute on what exactly happened.

ZIRO, a San Francisco-based service that seeks to compete in the same field as Uber and Lyft, had its permit to operate suspended by the regulatory agency on Nov. 15.

While ZIRO says it was a misunderstanding and that they weren’t required to submit the required report because it didn’t operate during the third quarter, CPUC officials say the report and fee payment was mandatory.

Emails between CPUC staffers and ZIRO officials added to the confusion, but CPUC spokesman Chris Chow said via email that the company was given notice and still failed to do the required work, which resulted in the suspended permit.

The suspension has since been lifted, according to data available on the CPUC website, but not before the company missed out on Thanksgiving business — traffic potentially bolstered by the Sonoma County airport’s decision to send a news release Nov. 26 touting its agreement with ZIRO to allow the company to operate at the airport.

That permission was rescinded Nov. 27, ahead of Thanksgiving, with Jon Stout, airport manager, citing the suspended permit. Stout couldn’t be reached for comment about ZIRO's reinstatement.

“We look forward to them clearing this up and getting back to operation,” Stout said in a phone interview Friday.

ZIRO officials, meanwhile, say the setback has hurt their rollout in Sonoma County.

ZIRO CEO Santosh Sarma said in an email this week that the company has no anger toward anyone over the ordeal, only “zeal to make ZIRO happen.”

“As a startup going after the behemoths of rideshare, we have an uphill task,” Sarma said. “Investor confidence is shallow in the industry due to the poorly performing IPOs and has negatively affected us in the market.”

Uber began operating at the Sonoma County airport in May. Lyft, which has offered service there for 3½ years, joining taxi and limousine companies, which continue to provide service.

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.

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