|By Julio Ojeda-Zapata, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Lyft legally launched a
If Lyft launches in defiance of its rules, the city said drivers will be ticketed and their vehicles impounded.
The city already has done this with UberX, a service similar to Lyft that has been operating for about a month in
In a email Tuesday, Lyft spokeswoman
"After productive conversations with city leaders," Thelen said, "there has been recognition that Lyft's peer-to-peer business model cannot be easily defined by existing framework for taxis or for-hire vehicles."
"Lyft is new and not accounted for in the existing frameworks for taxis and hired vehicles," Simpson said. "Ordinances for taxis do not cover Lyft. Lyft does not violate any existing city law. Lyft reviews city and state regulations before we launch in any market. Lyft is not a taxi."
Though conversations between Lyft and
"I'm surprised to see that they would launch," Wilson said. "City ordinances prohibit this ... and we will be having enforcement action."
That, Wilson said, will involve licensing-enforcement officials who will use the Lyft smartphone app to summon rides, take the ride and pay for it -- and then have the driver-owned vehicles ticketed and towed.
Insurance is a serious issue, Wilson said. Lyft drivers' personal insurance is null and void if the car is being used commercially, he said. Without the required city insurance, he said, driver and passengers are taking a serious risk.
"Safety is indeed the primary concern," said Lyft's Simpson. "Our safety measures go above and beyond what the city requires for the taxis it regulates."
Lyft said it has a system of driver-background checks, vehicle inspections and driver monitoring -- the latter largely via ratings that customers punch into the app after their rides. It also said it covers each vehicle and driver with
This makes the service safer and and more reliable than traditional taxi companies, co-founder
Wilson said he has been told that Lyft provides insurance, but that he has yet to see any proof.
These contentious transportation issues have played out across the country as Lyft and UberX have clashed with cities and taxi companies. UberX was not available for comment.
Lyft operates in 22 U.S. metropolitan areas. UberX, which also relies on driver-owned vehicles, is one of several summon-a-ride services run by
Lyft, UberX and other such services rely on Google Android and Apple iOS apps that customers use to summon cars. Taxi companies, which fiercely oppose this new competition, have nevertheless imitated those services with call-a-cab apps of their own.
"The mayor supports businesses that are new and innovative and cater to a tech-savvy, younger crowd," said
Nevertheless, Humphrey said, the city has been in discussions with the
Lyft's spokeswoman Thelen said, "We look forward to working with the city of
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