updated 08:57 am EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
Official TLC warning leaves little ambiguity as to regulatory intent
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has escalated the conflict between it and ride-sharing service Lyft. A warning by the TLC, issued yesterday, reminds residents that while the service is indeed opening on Friday and will be offering free rides for two weeks to new subscribers, that the service is unlicensed to operate, and un-investigated drivers may pose a danger to riders.
Lyft is a San Francisco-based company whose mobile-phone application facilitates peer-to-peer ride-sharing by enabling passengers who need a ride to request one from drivers who have a car. Unlike traditional taxis, Lyft drivers do not charge fares, but instead receive "donations" from their passengers, facilitated through the app. Lyft currently operates in 60 US cities, with plans to expand both domestically and internationally.
The service announced plans to launch this Friday, and was met with resistance from the city of New York. A city official reportedly said that Lyft "want to come in and operate outside the law. There are no shades of gray on this. They intend to operate outside the law."
The new, and formal, warning notes that "Lyft has not complied with TLC'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."
To prospective drivers, the memo warns that "unsuspecting drivers who sign-up with Lyft are at risk of losing their vehicles to TLC enforcement action, as well as being subject to fines of up to $2,000 upon conviction for unlicensed activity." Drivers with TLC licenses are also informed that in addition to the fine, that they may lose their license as well.