<b>REVVING UP:</b>  Andy Iro is the community manager for the taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber, which launched two months ago in Santa Barbara.

Paul Wellman

REVVING UP: Andy Iro is the community manager for the taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber, which launched two months ago in Santa Barbara.

Uber Taxi App a Fit for Santa Barbara?

New Cab Service Launches Amid Curiosity and Criticism

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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When technology start-up Uber launched in town two months ago, Santa Barbara became one of 65 cities in the world where users can hail a taxi at “a push of the button.” The $3.4-billion company has rapidly expanded to international cities, including Santiago, Paris, New Delhi, and Dubai, since it was founded in San Francisco in 2009, but angry cabbies, lawsuits, and state and city regulations have continuously threatened the cab-hailing smartphone app that connects millions of riders to tens of thousands of personal drivers.

“Think Expedia for ground transportation,” said Andy Iro, who is running Santa Barbara’s Uber operations. He explained that when users enter their desired destination, the app locates them via GPS and connects them to a nearby driver. The user receives a text message with info about the driver, estimated time of arrival, and a flat fee. After the ride, the customer’s pre-stored credit card or PayPal account is charged. (Tips are not expected, a fact that has prompted a class-action lawsuit from Uber drivers in San Francisco.)

Uber also offers a lower-cost option called UberX, which connects users with drivers in their private cars ​— ​the vehicles have to be four-door sedans made no earlier than 2006 ​— ​and is about 30 percent cheaper than a typical cab fare, Iro said. An UberX ride from UCSB to downtown is $25, while the trip in a normal cab typically exceeds $35.

But competitors and critics wonder if Uber will be able to survive on the South Coast. “That kind of technology is inappropriate for Santa Barbara. It’s useful in a bigger market, but [Santa Barbara] is too small a town,” said Gordon McElwain of Santa Barbara Yellow Cab, calling the premise “idealistic.” He claimed there are too many factors when requesting a cab ​— ​number of passengers, cab size, exact meeting place, and cost ​— ​to sort out via text message.

Oscar Taula, manager at Warrior Taxi Cab, reasoned that people living in Santa Barbara are unlikely to sign up to drive for Uber to supplement their income, but people in bigger cities may be more inclined to do so. He further argued that the company’s drivers are not as credible as licensed cabbies. The number of Uber drivers currently in Santa Barbara is unclear, as Iro said he could not release specific data per company policy. But he claimed Uber is safer for passengers because users have access to a driver’s name, picture, license number, and customer ratings.

Not all transportation companies are as skeptical. James Houseman of RockStar Transportation partnered with Uber Black ​— ​Uber also works with commercially licensed transportation companies to offer a more luxurious ride ​— ​as soon as it launched in Santa Barbara. “It’s a way to utilize my fleet,” Houseman said. “[Customers] use their app to find our drivers. By not making any phone calls, everything is really seamless.” Houseman pays Uber 20 percent of his proceeds, and he said his invoices have been doubling every week.

In several places like Boston, Colorado, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., the taxi industry has attempted to drive Uber cars off the streets with lawsuits, claiming the company evades expensive regulatory measures and poses unfair competition. The Santa Barbara Police Department regulates 68 cab companies in town, but tech companies like Uber fall under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

In attempt to bring order to an ambiguous new sector, the PUC released new requirements for transportation providers in September. The decision puts organizations like Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft in a new regulatory class called the Transportation Network Category and requires them to obtain a permit, conduct criminal background checks for drivers, establish a driver-training program, implement a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol, and get $1-million per-incident insurance coverage.

Despite the fact that the PUC’s decision legalized the new transportation businesses, Uber objected and claimed, “It is a legal error for the Commission to assert jurisdiction over technology companies like Uber that do not provide transportation services.” Uber filed for a rehearing of the decision in October, asserting it should be immune to state regulations because it does not own vehicles, employ drivers, or provide transportation. The commission has until December 23 to make a decision on Uber’s request for a rehearing.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

These old-school cab companies are scared to death of Uber, and its painfully obvious.

"It’s useful in a bigger market, but [Santa Barbara] is too small a town,” said Gordon McElwain of Santa Barbara Yellow Cab, calling the premise “idealistic.” He claimed there are too many factors when requesting a cab ​— ​number of passengers, cab size, exact meeting place, and cost ​— ​to sort out via text message."

Too many factors? How about everyone is sick of calling these local cab companies that are always late, usually lost and "don't" accept credit cards unless they charge a $15 minimum. Everyone I know has been using Uber in SB for the last month and it has made getting anywhere MUCH easier. I don't see these local cabs standing a chance unless they up their service.

cobryen (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Is a license plate affixed to the front of the car in the photo?

whatsinsb (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have had great experiences with Uber and Lyft in other cities and tried Uber for the first time in SB a month ago. It was awesome! Much cheaper and the driver was very friendly. As far as safety goes, it is great to have digital evidence of who picked you up and dropped you off. If you lose your wallet or anything bad happens, the evidence is there. I know of many incidents where people have gotten too drunk and lost their phones (not sure if this app would help) or been taken advantage of when riding with shady cab drivers. Uber has a rating system, so if you have a bad ride, it shows up on that drivers rating. So you just choose not to ride with them. Same with the riders. If you are someone who pukes in the car, don't tip, or do something stupid, it shows up on your rating. So there is a good check and balance going on.

I have to admit though that I feel a bad for the local companies like Lucky and Rockstar. They have great drivers from the area (many cab drivers in town seem to come up from LA or Ventura counties) who know their way around town. It may be time for them to make the switch to Uber or something similar. The taxi business as we used to know it is an endangered species.

laxer (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 9:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And it that former UCSB soccer star Andy Iro? I think so.

laxer (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 9:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I haven't tried Uber yet but I am very intrigued. I've had a lot of bad taxi experiences in SB over the years. Rude drivers, cars that don't seem safe, and drivers that don't know their way around town or take the long way if they think I'm a tourist. I hate that when I take a cab to or from the Airport I never know if it's going to cost $25 or $45. And I know a few women who say they are afraid to get into a taxi alone. A lot of the drivers creep them out. I don't blame them. The taxi industry in this town has gotten bad. Maybe Uber will shake things up a bit.

Ryansbca (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Honestly, I used Uber everyday in LA. I'm notorious for forgetting my credit card, so it's so nice all my information is safely in the app. I was beyond excited when I heard they were in Santa Barbara, that I actually got involved with them. I'm a campus rep for UCSB, and already college kids who have had a little too much to drink have thanked me for introducing me to the service. So many kids now use Uber, a safe reliable driver, instead of deciding to drink and drive. It's easy for them to order from their smartphone, and it's making Santa Barbara and Isla Vista a safer place.

To all those skeptical of Uber, try it out for yourself. When signing up, use the promo code 'SB10' -- it'll get you $25 off your first ride. Take the ride (it's free, why not?) and judge for yourself. I promise you you'll fall in love with Uber.

CamilleSmith023 (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Is Uber Taxi a fit for Santa Barbara? Well, Uber is not a very nice company. I’m looking at Uber articles from the past couple days.

Due to Uber's "surge pricing," Uber passengers in New York City got charged 7 (seven) times the normal amount during a recent snowstorm. They also had to pay a $175 minimum. This means customers could be charged $175 for a ride that lasted only a mile or two. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld's wife, Jessica, was charged $415 for her Uber ride. In response to an outpouring of customer complaints, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick got on Facebook to ridicule a woman who complained about her excessive fare.

So, is Uber Taxi a fit for Santa Barbara?

Uber is a greedy rogue outfit that doesn’t follow any laws. It dissembles outrageously, like in this story where Uber is quoted as saying it does not provide transportation services. It does. Everyone knows it does.

Now, Santa Barbara doesn’t have snowstorms. Lucky Santa Barbara. But when the fires start blowing, don’t jump into an Uber taxi and race across town to check your house. It might be cheaper just to let it burn.

DaveSutton (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Competition is good.

Holly (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 11:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I applaud this new service. $35 from IV to downtown?

How about the $25+tip I was charges to go from the airport to 101 area of Turnpike.

I got soaked for 4 miles.

taz (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

After using UBER in LA so much, I was very excited to hear they came to SB. I've been using them a lot lately and I love it. I had a small gathering over the weekend & when we left for downtown, we got 4 different UBERs & it was as hassle free as possible. We were at our destination within 10 minutes of the requests.

I hopped in a non-Uber local cab for the first time in a while the other night and the first thing the guy said was CASH ONLY. So annoying. UBER dominates cab companies on every level. No reason why they shouldn't thrive in SB.

And don't listen to any surge price nonsense that's been going on lately. Customers can easily control that with the app. Just pay attention and you'll be fine.

I've had continued bad luck with local cab companies for years now. So glad UBER is in SB.

aRod (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 11:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ally don't understand why some people are so against Lyft and Uber services when they are cheaper alternatives to taxis. Using Lyft myself, I truly see value in the whole ridesharing program. And if you use the promo code THEROW2 on your Lyft app you can even get a free $20 in Lyft driving credits wherever you want to go and hopefully see what I mean and get a little perspective :)

mattstrader (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 2:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Taxis are more expensive in SB than any other city in the country. Not only are their prices ridiculous, there is no governance on their fees. So one company will charge $2 per mile, while another will charge $4... I've paid as much as $50 to go from the airport to Downtown as little as $25...

Uber will destroy these price gauging jerks and send the illegal immigrants packing. For not only are you the one in control with Uber, you get to rate the drivers and Uber fires those who are rated poorly.

Goodbye Surf Cab, you're outrageous prices are history!

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Taxis are more expensive in SB than any other city in the country."

I guess we should reduce local taxi regulations and taxes then?

That would help reduce costs and bring even more options for people into the market and reduce the prices for a taxi.

This would also be far more effective at preventing drunk driving incidents than spanking drunk drivers harder and it is better for our civil liberties.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

iamsomeguyinsb: Although this may be simply repeating what Loonpt is saying when you have a place that is as regulated as California as well as Santa Barbara where businesses must pay so much $$$ in order to operate, they pass those costs onto the customer.

If the government didn't steal so much money things would be cheaper. That is why so many businesses move out-of-state.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 3:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No guys, the fact that there is no regulation on actual taxi pricing by the city (unlike most cities in CA and every other state) is the reason that the prices are so high and there is such disparity between companies. It has NOTHING to do with your rants and rages against the nanny state or the cities anti business stance... most of which I happen to agree with BTW.

Let me be clear: Taxi prices are not regulated in SB but cabs are... so they allow any cab that registers with the city (pays the fees, taxes etc) to charge anything they want. That's not a good thing unless you have pricing transparency and competition, something that Uber brings to the market and hopefully with cause the taxi companies to compete on price and service... a good thing! But when it costs more to travel a few miles in SB than NYC, Boston, Philly, SF, Chicago and every other major city I travel to, something is amiss. I guess you guys dont get out of town very often...

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 3:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

iamsomeguyinsb, price fixing by government leads to shortages, so we would have more problems getting a taxi to come on time in the first place if the government not only taxed and regulated the industry but then instated a fare ceiling.. You would see some of the more expensive cab companies simply disappear.

The taxes and regulation not only drive up the prices directly but they drive out competition. We need more competition coming in with lower prices to get the average cab fare to go down, government central planning is never the answer and will always reduce services and/or increase prices.

I should be able to start a taxi service on craigslist if I want or drive around with a cardboard "TAXI" sign in my window and you shouldn't be forced to use my service if you feel it is unsafe.. But a group of 3 or 4 dudes going from Goleta to downtown to pickup some girls at the bar should be able to use my service if they choose since they would be saving money, and if you want to feel safe you should have the right to use a service that is established and trustworthy. It might cost slightly more, but as more of the inexpensive services became trustworthy the established services would have to reduce their fares to remain competitive.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Taxi Cabs rates are approved by the City of SB on a company to company basis. If a cab company wants to change its metered rate, they have to get approval from the city, get each meter re-calibrated by The Shop in Goleta, get it checked by weights and measures and put up new Decals.
Santa Barbara is a taxi town. Uber is great in other areas where the cabbies wear turbans and don 't speak english. SB cabbies tend to be local english speaking family men and women. SB Cabs are new Toyota Minivans, TownCars, Cadillac Devilles, Expedition, Navigators and other comfortable full sized vehicles.
Uber is part of the trend of big corporations taking over. Uber is also part of the push to do away with cash so everything can tracked and traced by big brother.

BestAirportOntimeCab (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I accept all major credit cards for cab rides like uber. BUT I give people the choice to pay in cash or trade the rides for silver coins.

BestAirportOntimeCab (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 4:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

LoonPT, what the heck are you talking about? The Loon in your name is obviously not a reference to the bird or the place but to your state of mind... Maybe you should move to a country where you can do what you want when you want with no regard for others... there are plenty of those south.

BestAirportOntimeCab, Uber is about convenience and collective monitoring. Its not about race, religion or location... You do realize that you just made a very racist and woefully ignorant statement about Sikh's? It was about as clear of a racist / bigoted remark as I have ever read... I hope you receive the warranted results of such an insipid statement and your business is branded as is it, run by a bigot. By the way, this is just what Uber does, it puts idiots like you out of business by removing you from the pool...

Weights and Measures is about assuring that idiots like you are not gaming the meter, its not about what rates you choose to charge. Which varies greatly based on which cab one happens to hop into... Another thing that Uber does better. Give the customer power to choose... before the car arrives.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 4:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Damn, I have only Krugerrands and freeze dried meals to trade for cab fare.

zappa (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey iamsomeguyfromsb. You are a piece of work. You are on here spitting disinformation and spewing hate. You are mentally ill. Did i call you names or say anything rascist? NO!! Are you race baiting and telling bold faced lies about the cab business and cyber bullying people. I am a cab driver and i am open about it. Are you an uber driver who thinks he is cool now that he drives for money ?

BestAirportOntimeCab (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 6:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Cabs in this area are expensive and not very customer friendly. It costs $52 to take a cab from JFK airport to Manhattan , a distance of fifteen miles often in very bad traffic. In sunny SB, the taxis at the airport charge $45 for A five mile trip that takes maybe ten minutes. Innovative new services like Uber will improve taxi service and lower the true costs of taking a cab.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm talking about basic economics, duh.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 9:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Can't say I've appreciated the service of most of the cab companies mentioned here and in town, usually the drivers assume you're a tourist so will try to take longer routes; and any basic courtesy is an additional $25.
On the road they'll tailgate, cut you off; one frequent cabbie blogger here boasts of parking in the middle of State St. as if it were a right.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 1:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And... This is news... why?? Uber has a great publicist, I'll say that for them!!

BondJamesBond (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 8:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

BestAirportOntimeCab - Let me cite your post for you since you're obviously challenged...

You said " Uber is great in other areas where the cabbies wear turbans and don 't speak english."

I'll let you wiggle your way out of this one...

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 9:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is really great to know Santa Barbara Have got something special...As crime cases are increases day by day. it is a need of today ...i want it for my car too. Celebswear

susandurham (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 10:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's really great to know susandurham have got something special... As astroturfing cases are increases day by day, it is a need of today... I want one for my spambox too. Leisurewear.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 10:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Susandurham" reminds me of R.C. Collins from the Phil Hendrie show.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 21, 2013 at 12:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey Iamsomeubergayinsb, You called us cabbies Illegal Aliens. My ancestors on my Father's side came to America on the MayFlower. Some of my best friends our AMERICAN cab drivers of ALL RACES AND RELIGIONS. You were Race Baiting. I got a World Class Santa Barbara Education and I am have to be have Street Smarts to have driven a cab in California for the better part of 20 years. I am not get sucked into a gay no-where debate about Race and Religion when everybody knows that Me Forest F Conlon of Santa Barbara is a Man of Love. God Bless Us All. I Love when people ask me where I am from and what my background is. One Love

BestAirportOntimeCab (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 3:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, never a good idea to post when (seemingly?) drunk at 3:30 in the morning. Don't think this "marketing plan" is going to work out for you in the way you had hoped.

zappa (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 5:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

All cuacasions, regardless of race, crreed, or color, are wait, all black peopls, regardless of race creed and color, no, that doesn't work either, I'll try again later after I sober up.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 7:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice mullet BestAirport.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 11:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting legal issues ... if you were an online service that put parents in touch with prospective nannies, should you be legally responsible for screening the nannies?

Now stretch that example and think about nannies advertising on Craiglist. Do the same responsibilities apply to Craigslist?

Based on this thought experiment, I suspect Uber will lose its appeal.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 12:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Uh, so this guy is "not" a racist, but makes blatantly homophobic remarks while maybe in some drunken stupor and gets a pass? I don't think so. A basic Google search, or a look at his Yelp profile, tells you all you need to know.

pecanpie (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It makin me a confused boy. Is bestarport1timecab Iro?...if so, why he homophobic when his good friend gay?

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 7:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This blogger trying to say he's Iro but he not Iro, he just trying to make Iro look bad.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is one of Forrest's reviews on yelp. Not surprised. To give him credit, he does have two five star reviews, so he must be doing something right when he keeps his mouth shut. Reminds me of the Duck Dynasty guy.

"I called and asked to speak to a supervisor, to complain about a rude, insensitive driver. The person who answered the phone was that rude driver. He then went crazy, yelling and screaming and calling me every name in the book, including f#%k faggot and even the N word.
I could not imagine being alone in a cab with this man, or use a company that would hire him.
Avoid at all costs, walk if you must..."

laxer (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 7:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Laxer: Do you have anything to back what you are saying?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 9:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nope. Just a yelp review. I was actually wondering if the person posting with his name on here was actually him, so I checked around the internets to find reviews and this one popped up. I tried to include the fact that he has two 5-star reviews to show that he is doing something right with his business. However, based on this review, it does seem like the same guy.

laxer (anonymous profile)
December 24, 2013 at 5:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Everyone seems very, very confused.

1. Über is optional. Don't like it? Don't use it!
2. Über let's drivers and passengers rate each other. Great.
3. Über will price itself according to what people, freely, decide to pay in advance of getting into the car. Great.
4. If über is not right for SB, it will fail and stop operating.

Why is all this so hard for people?

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 4:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have no problem with Uber nor am I confused. If it works, it works.
Only problem I see is angry, likely drunken and clearly homophobic/racist rants by a competitor who seems to feel threatened.

pecanpie (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 5:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The future is a wave: surf it or get rolled under.
In DC, where I go once per month, I use Uber all the time. Unless I am using ZipCar, Cars2Go, Citibike - all great alternative modes of transportation that work via apps and are designed to make the traveling consumer's life more convenient. I am so happy that Uber is here. I have gone out of my way not to use SB cabs. They are ridiculously expensive. Double or triple what they cost in DC. It seems so myopic, I think so many more people would use them if gouging on price was not the norm. But I can park my car at the airport for 5 days for almost 1/2 the price of a taxi there and back. At least with Uber I get to charge it via my phone; which i love, and i have communication with the driver and can see how close he is.

Canaveral (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2013 at 11:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Uber is turning into a sweat shop because they get away with calling their employees independent contractors, so they basically can (and do) do anything they want to the drivers. I drove for Uber and was fairly happy at first, except for the unreasonable expection that you average 4.6+ stars out of 5, that's 5 stars almost every ride or lose your job. Try to do that while dealing with drunk jerks.... (and you actually are hurt by 4 star ratings, go figure). They force you to buy riders bottled water (or suffer poor ratings) by advertising that drivers will have bottled water for free, however the driver has to pay for it. Just last night, right before the weekend rush, they sent out an email telling us they are immediately cutting our pay by almost 30% from $2.45 per mile to $1.80 per mile and tell us, don't worry, you can just do 30% more rides and make the same money, because we will be busier. $20 dollar flat rate to I.V. or back, when the gas costs 5 dollars to go there and back is a joke for about an hours work on the weekend. Taxi to IV costs about 40-50 plus tip. By the way, 1.80/mile is about a quarter of what a Taxi costs, including the tip. Oh and for all of you that think the tip is included in your bill, you're wrong. Uber stiffs its drivers on the tip while most customers believe its included.

uberunfair (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2014 at 7:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People should top their Uber drivers.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2014 at 8:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Errr tip their driver. It is the right thing to do.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2014 at 8:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It was a Freudian slop...I mean slip Greenspan. You said "top" because somewhere you equated "top" and "Uber" (over, as in superior).

Now you and the others will spend the next few minutes being slightly disturbed by my disturbing comment.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2014 at 10:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Freudian slap, did you write with your nubby flipper? Can't Ueber also mean top? We need to get on top of this pressing issue of the day.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2014 at 8:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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