Lyft to defy Minneapolis, launch car-sharing service this week


Lyft, a San Francisco-based car sharing service, is facing off against Minneapolis City Hall as it prepares to launch service in the city on Thursday.

Lyft's unique model relies on regular people essentially becoming chauffeurs in their own vehicles, picking up passengers who request a ride through a mobile app. The cars are outfitted with Lyft's signature furry pink mustaches, the Star Tribune reports. The service is already operating in more than 20 cities, including St. Paul.

But Minneapolis insists that Lyft qualifies as a taxi service, and cannot legally operate within city limits if the company doesn't have a taxi license. That would require a city license for the driver, another for the vehicle, and the required commercial insurance, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

If Lyft launches in defiance of those rules, officials will issue tickets to the drivers and impound their vehicles, the Pioneer Press reports.

The city has already done this several times with UberX, a service similar to Lyft which has been operating in Minneapolis for about a month.

An e-mail from Lyft's spokeswoman Paige Thelen to the Pioneer Press said, "we've confirmed Thursday (2/27) for the launch of Lyft in Minneapolis."

A statement from Thelen said, "after productive conversations with city leaders, there has been recognition that Lyft's peer-to-peer business model cannot be easily defined by existing framework for taxis or for-hire vehicles," the Star Tribune reports.

Though such conversations have taken place, nothing has been resolved and Lyft is not authorized to operate, said Grant Wilson, manager of the city's Department of Licenses and Consumer Services. Lyft says it carries insurance, but Wilson said it has not provided a copy to any government agency.

Lyft, UberX and other such services rely on phone apps that customers use to sign up for a ride with another driver. The idea is to use cars more efficiently and "build community," according to Lyft.

Lyft has been operating in St. Paul since August, where regulators have taken a more lenient approach. St. Paul's licensing laws don't prevent ride-sharing, and vehicles only need to have a taxi license if they have a meter, according to City Pages.

Wilson from Minneapolis said officials from throughout the metro area have been discussing how to regulate car-sharing services on a regional basis, and hope to have a plan in place by June, according to the Star Tribune.

Lyft is facing similar questions in other cities around the country, including Columbus, Ohio and Houston, as it launches its car-sharing service while local regulators have not yet given their approval.

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