Miami, FL- Miami-Dade County officials claim that the ride-sharing service Lyft violates county code and have amplified their efforts to put a stop to Lyft by using police in a sting operation to tow the vehicles of Lyft drivers.
Lyft is a ride-sharing service that uses a smartphone app to connect people in need of transportation with drivers who can accommodate them. Those who are in need of a ride use the app to find and request a ride from a nearby driver, and to track the driver’s route and time of arrival. Lyft vehicles are easily noticed due to a catchy pink furry mustache that adorns the front of them.
The cost of using Lyft varies state by state; some drivers accept donations of suggested amounts and other drivers charge a set mileage rate and pickup fee, and sometimes various additional charges such as cancellation fees. Lyft began operating in Miami a couple of weeks ago.
Juan Arango is a Lyft driver who unwittingly picked up an undercover code enforcement officer who requested a ride to the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne. Upon dropping off the officer, Arango’s car was impounded immediately. A few minutes later, another driver, Stanley Scott, received the same “gotcha” experience with another undercover officer requesting a ride to a hotel. Both drivers were unaware that they were operating illegally, according to the Miami Herald. “I trusted that if the service was working in Miami, it was allowed,” said Arango.
In Miami-Dade County, Lyft drivers face fines of up to $2,000 for failure to obtain a chauffeur registration and for driving a “for-hire” vehicle for transportation services without getting a “for-hire” license. The code states that “for-hire vehicles include taxicabs, limousines, passenger motor carriers, jitneys, non emergency vehicles, special transportation services vehicles and private school buses” and are required to attain chauffeur registration.
Attorney Hilton Napoleon, who is representing Arango, Scott, and another driver who picked up an undercover officer, said that Lyft disagrees with the county categorizing the company in the same fashion as traditional taxi cabs. “It’s a situation where technology has kind of outpaced legislation, and we don’t believe the legislation that’s in place covers this particular issue,” said Napoleon.
According to the Miami Herald, Jorge Luis Lopez, a lobbyist for Lyft, obtained emails that showed taxicab and limousine group officials had warned county regulators that Lyft was launching in Miami. An administrator in the regulatory department reportedly wrote “Let’s crash the party” in response to a forwarded invitation to Lyft’s launch celebration.