Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taxi Commission Braces for St. Louis Launch of Lyft Ridesharing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taxi Commission Braces for St. Louis Launch of Lyft Ridesharing

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Lyft touts itself as the equivalent to catching a ride with a friend. Passengers who summon the app-based ride- sharing service can sit in the front seat, nibble on snacks and sip water.

But the service's rollout Friday in St. Louis will not receive a friendly welcome from taxicab regulators, who warn that the Lyft service will encounter legal roadblocks.

"We issued them a cease-and-desist order," said Ron Klein, executive director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission. "And we've notified them that we consider that an illegal cab operation."

Klein warned that the commission will take necessary "enforcement steps" to address the app-based transportation service. The service is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. with a parade of participating cars featuring trademark pink, fuzzy mustaches on their grilles.

Commissioners warned that Lyft drivers have not been vetted with the taxicab agency, which requires background checks and drug tests.

Companies that "operate or dispatch vehicles for hire" in the city or county must be certified by the commission, according to the agency code. Those companies also must comply with regulations pertaining to insurance, vehicle safety, and driver background checks "and appearance."

"These are all things that we do to make sure the person who is driving someone home at night is safe," Klein said. "That's the main goal of the taxi commission: to make sure the operators of our vehicles for hire are safe individuals."

Despite Lyft's donation-based pay policy, Klein said, the practice of picking people up even for a minimal amount of money is the same thing as a taxi service.

With the addition of St. Louis and Salt Lake City on Friday, Lyft will have a presence in 34 U.S. cities and geographic regions, a company spokeswoman said.

Prospective passengers download a Lyft iPhone or Android app and create an account through Facebook. …

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