A Defiant Lyft to Launch in Philly Friday

PHILADELPHIA (The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) -

Lyft, the ridesharing service known for the distinctive pink mustaches that adorn its drivers’ cars, says it will launch its service in Philadelphia on Friday, in defiance of a ban by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

“From Rittenhouse Square to South Philly to Fishtown, Lyft’s people-powered rides make getting across town easier than ever,” Lyft said in a blog post. “So get ready, Philadelphia — Lyft has landed! We look forward to sharing the ride with you.”

Like its larger competitor, Uber, Lyft connects part-time drivers to riders through a smartphone app.

Lyft was granted temporary authority to operate in most of Pennsylvania — but not Philadelphia — by the Public Utility Commission last month. Uber had been given similar conditional authority by the PUC in November.

The PUC regulates taxis and limousines in all Pennsylvania counties except Philadelphia, where the Parking Authority regulates the services.

Although the PPA has banned ridesharing services in the city, with $1,000 fines for drivers and impoundment of cars, UberX has been operating in Philadelphia since October. UberX is the Uber service that uses part-time drivers in personal vehicles.

(A separate, more-expensive service, Uber Black, is an on-demand limo service and is permitted by the PPA to operate in Philadelphia.)

The PPA considers ridesharing services such as Lyft and UberX illegal taxicab operations and has vowed to keep them from operating in Philadelphia.

“The PPA will fully enforce all existing laws prohibiting illegal hack taxi service in the city of Philadelphia,” PPA Executive Director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. said Tuesday.

“Unlike the 1,600 licensed medallion cabs in the city, there is no guarantee that Lyft cars are clean, safe, inspected or insured,” Fenerty said. “Lyft drivers have no training and have not gone through extensive driving and criminal background checks.”

“Like UberX drivers, Lyft drivers will also be fined $1,000, as well as having their cars impounded, and be required to pay all associated towing, storage and court costs. Drivers are also committing a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $2,500 and/or a one-year jail sentence.”

Since October, 29 UberX drivers have been fined by PPA and had their cars impounded.

Chelsea Wilson, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Lyft, said Lyft would pay the costs of any fines or impoundments and provide “any necessary legal assistance” to drivers.

“Current rules for taxis and limos were created long before anything like Lyft was ever imagined,” Wilson said. “That’s why we’ve worked with city and state officials across the country to craft new rules for ridesharing that prioritize public safety and consumer choice while still allowing innovative industries to thrive.”

Wilson said Lyft representatives have had “multiple conversations with city officials in Philadelphia, including the PPA, about our strong commitment to safety and peer-to-peer model.”

The administration of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, unlike the PPA, which is a state authority, has been supportive of ridesharing services.

Mark McDonald, a spokesman for the mayor, said Nutter believes the ridesharing companies must operate within the law, but believes Uber and Lyft are being unfairly targeted by the PPA.

Nutter wants the legislature to craft laws to permit ridesharing in the city, so that Philadelphians can have the same services as the rest of Pennsylvania residents, McDonald said.