"Lyft" plans Austin launch without approval

"Lyft" plans Austin launch without approval from Taxi Parmer

By: Taxi Parmer  06/02/2014
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Lyft is an app on your smartphone that links people who need rides with drivers.Earlier this month, city council decided they would analyze Lyft and other similar apps for the next six months. Council is trying to determine if they are safe because a stranger does, in effect, pick up a stranger. The company must also follow current city laws. Lyft must be permitted and the driver must have a chauffeur's permit.Violation would be a Class C misdemeanor, and a driver could have their car impounded. KVUE spoke with an Austinite who likes Lyft, he used it in L.A. Shawn Ullman says earlier this week he waited 45 minutes for a cab in Austin, so he knows the problem first hand. "All the cars were really clean, the drivers were nice, it was a great experience," Ullman said."I think they're just trying to get into the market and gain market share." Sarona Saadeh added "I think it sounds like a nice idea but so many things can go wrong. It does sound a little bit sketchy and maybe unsafe but the idea is interesting if they can work around those obstacles." The Austin Transportation Department enforces rules on the road, they sent the following statement to KVUE: "The Austin Transportation Department's role is to enforce the Austin City Code, and as the Code is written today when a driver is paid to provide ground transportation services, the providing company must be permitted and the driver must have chauffeur's permit. ATD is currently working on a process to engage transportation stakeholders in order to make a recommendation to the City Council about a possible pilot program to see how transportation network companies could possibly operate in Austin. We look forward to that process and working with the community to see what works best for Austin." Austin's Transportation Department told KVUE News that "Lyft" has not contacted the city, and if the city finds it operating out of compliance it will be held to the same city codes as other transportation companies. Yellow Cab Austin, a competitor of Lyft, released this statement regarding the app's launch: "Transportation Network Companies choosing to launch illegal operations shows a complete lack of respect for the City Of Austin. We strongly advise everyone to ask for proof of commercial insurance before using any illegal service. While they choose to sidestep the rules, we'll honor a commitment to addressing our city's challenges through legal transportation options that prioritize the safety of both riders and drivers, including innovations like the Hail A Cab app. We will also continue to respect the process set forth by the Austin City Council -- one that is in place for the protection of our residents and visitors." Lyft is holding a kick off event Thursday night in Austin. Leaders were not available for comment this morning but have told KVUE they believe their service is safe, in part because all drivers must pass a background check.

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