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Lyft Drivers Still Operating, Despite Cease-And-Desist Order

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Lyft driver Terri Richardson sports the company's signature pink mustache on the front of her car during a recent shift.

San Antonio Police have issued a cease-and-desist order for drivers of a so-called ride sharing program called Lyft.

But that hasn't stopped them, and instead they are rolling forward full throttle. For passengers, taking a Lyft is easy. A rider must download the app to their smartphone, enter their credit card information and phone number, and request the ride. A driver, whose car is marked with a pink mustache, will typically pull up to the rider's location within 15 minutes, and off they go.

Drivers, for the most part, are comfortable with the process and the passengers they pick up. Daniel Gines, who admitted the program seems like more of a taxicab concept than the ride-sharing program the company claims to be, said he feels positive about riders he's picked up.

"The people have been very nice and very, very receptive to the idea of Lyft," Gines said on a recent trip.

Not everyone has been that nice, though. Cab drivers lined up last week to tell the city council's public safety committee how much they despise the idea of Lyft.

They say they are following strict city regulations to operate and believe Lyft should have to abide by the same rules, including running a consistent fee schedule and requiring vehicles to be no older than eight years.

Taxi driver Carol Evans told the committee she believes there are real safety concerns with Lyft and similar companies.

"We've gone through background checks," Evans said. "My finger prints have been taken every two years."

On the other hand, Lyft driver Terri Richardson, who drives an EMS for a living, said there are layers of protection to keep everyone safe. Still, driving people around made her a bit apprehensive at first, which may describe how many riders feel at first, too.

"It was a little bit nerve-wracking at first but I have not ever felt unsafe," Richardson said.

According to Richardson, Lyft thoroughly vetted her as a driver. She said she had to jump through more hoops as a Lyft driver than obstacles she faced to drive an ambulance.

The city isn't recognizing Lyft as the ride-sharing program the company says it is. Instead, the city is classifying it as a a transportation network company. Riders don't have to pay anything, Richardson said, and that's why she feels it truly is a ride-sharing program.

The chapter that defines San Antonio's vehicle for hire ordinance spells out that compensation in forms of tips, gratuity or donations are indeed a vehicle for hire.

Police Chief William McManus issued a cease-and-desist letter because of a host of concerns on the city's part.

"Because my duties include supervision of the San Antonio Ground Transportation Unit," said McManus in a letter dated March 26 to Lyft officials. "I am obligated to inform you that your intended operations, which connect passengers with drivers using a mobile application, require permitting and authorization through our Ground Transportation Unit."

Mayor Julián Castro sees things differently. He has said he thinks there's room to revise San Antonio's ordinance to respect cabs while still welcoming new players to the market.

"We're not discovering a new planet here," Castro said. "Dozens of cities have grappled with this issue of these new app-based transportation services, and I'm confident San Antonio can come to a happy medium as well."

Richardson agrees.

"I do not think we'll put the cabs out of business. That's not our intention," she said.

A representative from Lyft responded to TPR's request for a statement. Paige Thelen, a communications officer with the company, said in an email that Lyft has "gone above and beyond existing transportation requirements by implementing an extensive screening process, strict background and driving record checks, and a first-of-its kind $1 million excess liability insurance policy to give both drivers and passengers peace of mind."

At the request of the Public Safety Committee, McManus will go back before members in May to provide an update on the conversation among all parties involved.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.