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Lyft Plans Weekend Launch in St. Louis, But Will the City Shut It Down?

lyft_car_on_road.jpg
Lyft
An army of pink mustaches is on its way, St. Louis.
Lyft, the app-based, on-demand ride-sharing business based in San Francisco, plans to go live in St. Louis at 7 p.m. Friday.

The company has been building up for months to launch in the Lou, advertising jobs for drivers on Facebook and Craigslist, and interviewing hundreds of applicants at Nebula coworking space on Cherokee Street.

But Lyft won't have the special dispatch license developed by the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission for ride-sharing apps by Friday. St. Louis City and County rules say any companies that operate or dispatch vehicles for hire must be certified.

"If they do not comply with the taxicab commission, they will be operating illegally and would be in violation of the law," MTC spokesman Richard Callow tells the St. Louis Business Journal.

See also: Taxis, Beware: St. Louis to Get First App-Based Car Service, Carmel

lyftscreen.JPG
Lyft
But Lyft isn't a taxi service, says Paige Thelen, a spokeswoman for Lyft. Riders hail cars with their smartphones, not on the street. Lyft's drivers are typically students, entrepreneurs, artists and other folks looking to make some side cash by driving clients in their own cars -- not professional, full-time taxi drivers.

Plus, Lyft doesn't charge a fare. Instead, the app suggests a donation, and Lyft gets a cut.

"Applying for that license would be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole," Thelen tells Daily RFT.

For anyone with an eye on St. Louis' social-media scene, it's been clear that Lyft excites St. Louisans more than the city's current, legally certified ride-sharing app, Carmel. Thelen says she hopes St. Louis officials will let Lyft operate without a license.

"We've seen the community already express excitement and enthusiasm," Thelen says. "We believe the city would not want to take that away from its residents."

Part of St. Louis' licensing process includes proving that car dispatchers meet certain safety requirements for insurance, vehicle safety, driver background checks and more. Lyft backs up its service with a $1 million insurance policy covering passengers and third parties, and another $1 million policy covering drivers if they are hit by an uninsured motorist.

Lyft drivers must be 23 years old and pass a criminal background check that includes national, county and sex-offender databases.

Potential drivers are disqualified from working for Lyft if they've had:

- more than two moving violations in the past three years

- any major violation (such as driving on a suspended license) in the past three years

- a DUI or drug-related driving violation or severe infraction (such as driving faster than 100 mph) in the past seven years

- more than one severe infraction, ever

- any extreme infraction in their lifetime driving history, such as a hit-and-run or a felony involving a vehicle

Thelen says the city's growing tech and creative scenes drew Lyft to St. Louis and could potentially expand beyond its current coverage area, which reaches to Arnold in the south, Defiance in the west, St. Charles in the north and downtown in the east.

"We wanted to be part of the community," Thelen says. "Many residents rely on their own personal cars to get around. We believe Lyft will allow people to be a little more flexible."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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24 comments
Keith Stephens
Keith Stephens

They can't be less safe than some taxi drivers I've seen. Probably better.

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

The taxi cartel (city commission) decides who can and cannot compete against them.

Bambi Zj Baker
Bambi Zj Baker

This is needed in this town especially if you have to go to saint Charles

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

It sounds like a taxi service to me. They just carefully chose a few cute words to try and slip by. Like the difference between garbage man and sanitation engineer.

LaTonya Ann
LaTonya Ann

Literally just seen a white van with the moustache on the front thought it was another new fad going around

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Who wants a mustache ride!

Jason Allen
Jason Allen

Took a cab from scottrade center to the lumière and it was 10 bucks and change. That's a lot seeing how the metro link is close to both and less. It was a friend the insisted on it thinking the metro would be packed due to the blues game and the cards game. That was the first and what I hope is the last time I take a cab in St. Louis. No where near what it was worth. I can see 5 bucks and a tip but not 10.xx and a tip.

jbradhicks
jbradhicks

So basically the point of this article is that Lyft isn't even vaguely legal but they hope both the city and the county will overlook that? Good luck with that; never going to happen.

Marcie Moses
Marcie Moses

As a business traveler I have used Lyft in a variety of cities and it is awesome. So much better than a nasty cab!

Krystal Friggin Henderson
Krystal Friggin Henderson

Given the exceptionally limited joke that is public transit, it would be a shame if they ruined this opportunity too.

Philip Rock
Philip Rock

they've been trying to launch here for something like a year now.

dylanized
dylanized

Richard Callow is the spokesperson for the taxi cav commission? Conflict of Interest much??

dylanized
dylanized

Richard Callow is the spokesperson for the taxi cab commission? Conflict of Interest much??

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