Lyft is officially unwelcome in New York City — just as it’s set to launch in the city on Friday.
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The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission sent out a stern notice Wednesday afternoon that warned drivers and riders that car service app Lyft has not yet been approved by the commission in the city.
New York City is a hot battleground for taxis and transportation apps like Lyft and Uber. On Monday, Uber cut its low-rate UberX fares by 20 percent to make its rides cheaper than a cab (and possibly to undercut Lyft’s impending arrival). Uber, along with Hailo, TaxiMagic, Gett and Whisk, have all worked with the city to get TLC approval.
The commission has already questioned the legality and safety requirements of Lyft, which plans to launch Friday in Queens and Brooklyn. But officials decided to make a stronger call on Wednesday to alert riders and drivers of the app’s status.
Riders should stay way from Lyft because the car service app does not have the proper permits to pick up passengers and has not complied with the city’s safety requirements, said TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg. And TLC-licensed drivers are at risk of steep penalties — losing their permit and car and being fined up to $2000 — if they’re caught driving for an unauthorized service like Lyft.
“We already had one notice in the pipeline that went earlier, but later in the day, we saw the wisdom of being even more outspoken and really emphasizing Lyft’s illegal status,” Fromberg said. “For one thing, we’re concerned about unsuspecting people who may be signing up with Lyft to do what they believe is just some innocent moonlighting, and they will be at-risk of facing significant penalties and losing their vehicles in enforcement actions.”
In videos for the New York City launch, Lyft emphasized the public service they were offering by connecting the outer boroughs. Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the commission’s statement.
The TLC’s full notice is below:
Important Notice to Passengers and Drivers Lyft’s “Ride Share” Service is Unauthorized
In light of the recent announcement from the smartphone application Lyft that they plan to offer free rides in Brooklyn and Queens starting on July 11th at 7:00 PM, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) reminds its licensees and the public that Lyft’s “ride share” service is unauthorized in New York City. Lyft has not complied with TLC’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers. In keeping with the TLC’s priority of protecting public safety and consumer rights, the agency will be conducting enforcement operations to ensure compliance with the City’s rules and laws.
The public is reminded that they should not get into a vehicle without a TLC license, because it has not undergone the rigorous safety and emissions inspections conducted by the agency to ensure its safety and fitness for transporting passengers, and its driver has not been subject to the TLC’s required drug and background checks. TLC licensees are also monitored on an ongoing basis for both criminal violations and convictions, as well as for traffic-related violations. Unsuspecting drivers who sign-up with Lyft are at risk of losing their vehicles to TLC enforcement action, as well as being subject to fines of up to $2,000 upon conviction for unlicensed activity.
TLC-licensed drivers are reminded that the New York City Administrative Code and TLC Rules prohibit them from accepting a for-hire trip that isn’t dispatched by a licensed base that is held accountable for the actions of its drivers and affiliated vehicles. TLC-licensed drivers who accept trip assignments from Lyft – which is not a licensed entity — are likewise at risk of losing their TLC driver licenses and vehicles to TLC enforcement action, as well as being subject to fines of up to $2,000 upon conviction for unlicensed activity.
Follow Ellen Huet on Twitter at @ellenhuet.