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Lyft to launch in Omaha, Lincoln, KC Thursday night amid controversy

April 24, 2014 by

Cars with the trademark pink fuzzy mustaches will hit the road at 7 p.m. Thursday in Omaha, Lincoln and Kansas City.

Lyft is launching 24 cities Thursday, but drivers in Nebraska may face tickets, fines and car impoundments, according to the state Public Service Commission that says the service is illegal.

Rides will be free until May 8, according to a Lyft representative. Lyft is hosting kickoff events Friday in Kansas City at Snow and Company and Omaha at House of Loom.

Lyft began in San Francisco in 2012 before expanding to 36 markets in 2014. After Thursday’s announcement, the ride sharing service is now in 60 cities across the U.S. 

“Thanks to our fast-growing community, we’re taking a huge leap forward in bringing affordable, safe and friendly rides to all corners of the country,” according to Lyft’s blog

The Public Service Commission has sent cease and desist orders to both Lyft and Uber, who have not applied to be a carrier service in Nebraska. Both plan to launch in Omaha.

Two Change.org petitions have circulated on social media asking Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert to allow the ride sharing services in the cities. However, the approval process lies in the PSC’s authority. 

The PSC said the companies must apply to serve in Nebraska as a licensed carrier, but Lyft and Uber argue they are a technology company that connects private drivers and vehicles with those that need a ride through an app. The companies say they are not taxi services.

Lyft drivers have been ticketed in St. Louis, Minneapolis and Madison, Wisc. in recent weeks.

PSC Commissioner Anne Boyle has called Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert asking for police assistance in citing drivers and also alerted hotel industry reps to tell travelers to beware of the service. 

Tuesday, Boyle said the companies are arrogant and unwilling to follow the rules.

The PSC is skeptical of the services’ insurance, vehicle and background check processes.

A Lyft representative said its requirements are more strict and checks more rigorous than most taxi companies.

“It’s what truly sets Lyft apart as a peer-to-peer ridesharing platform,” said Katie Dally, who handles public relations for Lyft. 

 

This is a developing story. Stay with Silicon Prairie News for updates.

For more on Uber and Lyft’s controversial arrival in Omaha, read our earlier coverage: “Lyft, Uber face regulatory hurdles as Nebraska launch approaches” and “PSC Commissioner to Uber, Lyft: Follow the rules or leave

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