On-demand ride-sharing startup Lyft will move ahead with its planned launch in Brooklyn and Queens this Friday, despite warnings from the local taxi regulator that its service is not authorized to operate in the city.
Two days before launch, Lyft is already facing regulatory hurdles in New York, as the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has said the company does not comply with its safety requirements or licensing criteria.
“Lyft has not complied with T.L.C.’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers,” the commission said in a statement. The TLC also warned that drivers who are caught operating outside of its regulations could lose their vehicles and be fined up to $2,000.
Lyft, of course, has dealt with enforcement activities in other markets before, but maintains operations in all of the markets in which it has launched. New York, however, has a powerful taxi lobby and a regulatory environment that has been unfriendly to companies that rely on peer-to-peer services.
As it relates to New York City, Lyft maintains that public safety is not the real issue, as it holds drivers to a higher standard than the TLC requirements. Furthermore, the company plans to move ahead with launch despite the regulator’s warnings.
At a pre-launch meetup in Brooklyn attended by a few hundred drivers this evening, Lyft president John Zimmer told them that the company would stand behind the community and would aid them in the case of any enforcement actions taken by the TLC. That could include covering any fines or citations issued or legal fees associated with them.
Lyft spokesperson Erin Simpson also sent the following statement:
Lyft will offer a new and much needed transportation option for New Yorkers in the areas of the city where existing options are lacking. This improvement in transportation will provide important opportunities that New Yorkers want and deserve. We’ll continue to work with all stakeholders to create a path forward. Our focus remains on the community, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Where we differ with the TLC is that we do not believe its licensing and base station rules apply to the Lyft ridesharing model. It’s important to clarify that our differences of opinion are not about safety standards, and that’s because we put safety first. In new markets when we begin conversation with local regulators, we always find a way to ensure that communities have Lyft. We’re certainly different from the status quo, but that is our strength.
Today we’re releasing our Safety Commitment (attached). We will never waver in keeping our drivers and passengers safe. This is Lyft’s commitment to our community and yours.
Atttached with the statement Lyft sent the following PDF on its commitment to safety.