A ridesharing service embroiled in a legal dispute with the St. Louis taxi commission has received a public show of support from one of the state’s top elected leaders.
Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder urged the city’s Metropolitan Taxicab Commission on Monday to drop its efforts to regulate Lyft as if it is a taxi service. Kinder said the taxi commission’s efforts are preventing an innovative business from entering the St. Louis market.
The smartphone app-based service allows users to look for members who offer rides using their own cars. The app allows users to donate a contribution rather than pay a metered fare. The front grilles of Lyft cars are decorated with distinctive pink mustaches. Kinder, a Republican, said he unsuccessfully tried to book a Lyft car several weeks ago
“Before you can open a lemonade stand when you’re 10 years old, you’ve got to go to government and get an approved certificate that there’s a need for a lemonade stand in your neighborhood,” Kinder told the commission, referring to its legal requirement for city taxi drivers. “Should we have certificates of need that deny people in a free country like ours the opportunity to earn a living? It’s absurd.”
Within days of its St. Louis debut, a city judge ordered Lyft last month to disable its app locally. The California-based company is also encountering opposition in Kansas City , which also wants to license Lyft drivers. The company recently announced an expansion from 36 to 60 markets.
During cross examination, the taxicab commission’s lawyer asked Kinder about Lyft’s safety requirements, standards for car insurance, driver training, background checks and car inspections. Kinder responded that he did not know the specifics.
Lyft representative Joseph Okpaku told the commission that the company ensures that its drivers carry sufficient insurance, bolstered by coverage through the company. He said Lyft is losing an estimated $30,000 in revenue each week it’s not allowed to operate in St. Louis.