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Pink-mustachioed citizen taxis come to St. Paul

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What's with all the Facebook ads for a car with a pink mustache?

Lyft is a new taxi-type service that begins operations in St. Paul this week, the Pioneer Press reports, and the service has been heavily advertising on social media. Planners aim to ultimately expand the service to the rest of the Twin Cities.

The San Francisco-based operation promotes itself as a tech-friendly business aimed at challenging the traditional taxi model. The service uses citizen-owned vehicles and private drivers. Riders, who have been required to sign in with Facebook, call for cars with their smartphones.

The taxi industry is none too pleased at the new competition, the Pioneer Press reports. And city officials have not been quick to rev up to the idea.

City leaders and taxi industry officials complain that the new service is not subject to the same regulations as taxis. But Lyft officials say they use a reliable system that requires driver-background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance coverage, the Pioneer Press notes. Riders can also rate their drivers, which creates a new kind of accountability, company leaders say.

The company held a "community meeting" in Seattle Thursday night, where company co-founder John Zimmer said that in time, the service would create less need for personal cars – and more business for taxis and other ride-sharing services, GeekWire reported.

Lyft launched in 2008 in a Facebook-backed business incubator under the name Zimride, offering more of a ride-sharing service in California, Forbes reported. A year ago, it became Lyft, aimed at providing ride sharing within cities, Forbes noted. It now does about 30,000 rides per week, Forbes reported.

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