Judge puts brakes on Lyft ride sharing service in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– A St. Louis judge says the ride sharing company, Lyft, cannot operate in the city of St. Louis or St. Louis County until a May hearing over its apparent refusal to abide by the rules of the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxi Commission. But more than two hours after the order was issued, Lyft was still picking up passengers.

Lyft began operation in St. Louis last weekend. The service operates through a software application. A passenger calls for a “Lyft,” on his or her smartphone, and a driver gets the message and picks them up. The company says payment is made through “donations,” not fares, an apparent sidestep of taxi commissions in cities where Lyft operates.

“They are charging a fare,” Taxi Commission attorney Chuck Billings said in an interview Monday. “They have a price list. If you don’t pay the fare, you will not be invited back to use your app to get a Lyft ride. It’s a farce, but that’s secondary. This is a public safety issue.”

He says lack of regulation for the company can lead to safety issues for passengers and drivers. He claims a Lyft driver cited over the weekend had an outstanding felony warrant.

“We check the drivers, they check insurance to make sure they comply with state law. They haven’t done any of this because they haven’t contacted us. They haven’t made application like everyone else.”

A Lyft driver we spoke to says she was vetted by the company.

“Everybody who has been selected to work at Lyft has gone through extensive background checks and DMV checks and everything I would suspect someone who drives a taxi goes through,” Lyft driver Stephanie Ingles told us.

Ingles arrived at Fox 2’s live van on in South St. Louis fewer than ten minutes after we called her on the Lyft app, Monday.   We contacted her more than two hours after the temporary restraining order was issued. She said she had no idea a judge had ruled, and conceded that made her a little nervous.

“Yes I am worried about getting a ticket for doing this,” she told us.

But she also said company representatives have promised to pay any citations drivers are given.

We reached out to a spokesperson for the company, who answered our request for comment late in the day via email.

“We are always open to working with city leaders to discuss Lyft’s peer-to-peer business model,” Paige Thelen wrote, “but the company has not received any documentation regarding a temporary restraining order against Lyft in St. Louis. We are trying to learn more and I will circle back with you once I have additional information.”

Caught in the middle of the dispute are St. Louis taxi cab drivers. Umar Lee wrote a scathing blog about Lyft that was republished on the national online news site, the Huffington Post, this past weekend.

“It’s the WalMartization,” Lee told Fox 2. “It’s driving down the costs. It’s driving down the wages.”

He said Lyft is coming in, skirting rules, and undercutting his means to feed his family.

“What St. Louis cab drivers are asking for is a level playing field. We see the arrival of Lyft in St. Louis as not only an attack on the profession, but an attack on good paying jobs.

“This is not a play thing,” he continued. “This is not a part time thing. This is a six day a week, 10-12 hour a day job that I use to support my family and to pay my bills.”

Former Missouri Senator Joan Bray, who shares office space with Lyft, says she supports the company and believes the city should, too. She’s says Lyft is the kind of innovative company St. Louis is trying to attract.

“People love to go to San Diego, they love to go to Seattle, they love to go to Denver,” she said. “They love to go to these places that have great spirit and lots of young people. St. Louis is just gonna kill it if they do things like this.”

As for the impact Lyft and others like it might have on the taxi industry:

“I would hope there could be coexistence, but also maybe something about the taxi cab industry needs to update itself,” she said.

 

New app based ride sharing service launches in St. Louis

 

9 comments

    • rose

      If everyone would do that, mabie, just mabie, the would get the message. The problen is, if you really meed a cab, there’s not ANY choice.

  • Dan

    The cab drivers talk about feeding their families and the commision talks about following the rules, they are both hypocrites. I am a downtown business owner and every day I see cabs illegally parked at meters that they don’t feed until someone threatens to write them a ticket. Why is there a need for 12 cabs in parked on one corner? There isn’t!! When I call the commision (because it is illegal for the cabs to take up meter spots), there is very little response. COMMISSION DO YOUR JOB!!! Become proactive get off of your butts and you should be making sure the cab drivers that can’t feed there kids are following the rules!!! I don’t even have the time to go into the fact that they take up metered spots for actuall customers… But I am sure it will continue because that is what St. Louis is about… making sure they get there cut of anything that they can get there hands on. Way to go!!! Downtown will never be anything as long as these people are still in office

  • Craig Campbell

    “We check the drivers, they check insurance to make sure they comply with state law. They haven’t done any of this because they haven’t contacted us. They haven’t made application like everyone else.”

    They check the drivers. They have 5x the insurance you do. They haven’t contacted you because you are a mafia-run monopoly. They haven’t made an application because your mafia-run monopoly is unconstitutional under any (well funded) scrutiny.

  • Tara Garcia

    I find it interesting how they try to discredit the Lyft drivers by saying that they are 20-somethings that work part time jobs, then go out to drive in their parent’s cars. This is not true. I saw the drivers as they were leaving their training session on the launch day. There were several drivers in the 40+ range. I myself have sent in an application to supplement my income. I have 2 grown children and one on the way to college. I prefer my youngest child NOT pay for student loans and I am willing to work extra to help his future. I work a full-time position as a registered professional. I also have many years of driving experience (starting on an ambulance) and I would be considered a seasoned, experienced driver. I am not a transplant or immigrant to the area. In fact, I’m a lifetime St Louisan that can offer a TON of information to my riders including historical significance, thus become an asset to St Louis’ tourism industry. Did you know that each of the drivers are rated by the rider afterwards on a scale of 1-5 stars. How much do you think this will contribute to improved job performance?? Considering the rider is making a donation, the performance of the driver (this includes timeliness and cleanliness) will affect how much they earn. Wow! – people actually getting paid based on performance!! This generates a good work ethic – something this whole nation is lacking! The Democrats are always wanting to push progressiveism till it directly hits their wallets. Shame on StL politicians! I say to all St Louisans, please unite for your own good!! I’d love to pack that court room with citizens in favor of this company on May 6th. Who else is interested in coming??

  • Mike

    You are all rasist sheep. You’ll find out soon enough that your illegal ride was provided by a former taxi driver. You will also find that you signed away all your constitutional rights against these companies. You will further find out that the company has inadiquate insurance and does not do a live scan background checks. Inspections of vehicles are done by photographs. Training is by watching a brief video. Insurance fraud to personal insurance companies to cover commercial driving. More cars and more deaths because of your selfish need of a ride within 3 minutes. Good luck…. you’ll need it, sheep.

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