updated 05:03 pm EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
NYC officials demanding drug, criminal screening for all Lyft drivers
Ride-sharing service Lyft has revealed that it intends to start operating in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens as initial launch markets in New York City. Calling the areas "vastly underserved by public transit options," the service launches on 7PM EST on Friday, July 11, but is facing significant resistance both from established cab companies and city government.
Lyft is a San Francisco-based company whose mobile-phone application facilitates peer-to-peer ridesharing 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.
Referring to Lyft, a New York City official told the New York Daily News that "they want to come in and operate outside the law. There are no shades of gray on this. They intend to operate outside the law." New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is demanding that drivers for Lyft subject themselves to drug tests, background checks, and vehicle inspections, formalized by the commission.
Lyft believes that it is a ride-sharing service, not a paid taxi or limousine. Lyft claims that not only is the regulatory standard out of date, but its own internal vetting process and $1 million insurance offering is more in-depth than the city requires. For its Queens and Brooklyn launches, Lyft is offering two free weeks of service to new users, which by definition, New York City riders would have to be.
It is possible that the city government will take a hardline stance on Lyft drivers. The Daily News' source also claims that "we'll have to enforce the law, and for illegally operating vehicles that means taking them off the street, that means seizing them."