City Warns Passengers of Lyft Crackdown as Taxi Service Prepares to Launch
NEW YORK CITY — The city wants you to pass on the 'stache.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission on Wednesday warned would-be drivers and passengers to stay away from Lyft, a ride-sharing app and Uber competitor whose cars are marked by pink mustaches and who the TLC called "unauthorized."
Lyft announced Tuesday it would start giving rides in Brooklyn and Queens on Friday at 7 p.m., offering two weeks of free service to anyone who signed up. It listed Astoria, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope as coverage "hot zones."
But the TLC pushed back, saying it would target any drivers sporting the company's signature pink mustaches on the front of their car.
On Wednesday afternoon the agency went a step further, releasing a notice to licensees calling Lyft an unlicensed entity and confirming it has not complied with the TLC's safety standards, adding that both drivers and passengers should be wary.
"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," the notice read.
"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."
The service works through a downloadable smartphone app, where users can enter their information and search for a nearby ride from volunteer drivers who use their own cars, adorned with a pink mustache to identify it as a Lyft vehicle.
Instead of fares, riders pay with "donations" to the drivers. Lyft takes 20 percent of that donation.
The notice also warned TLC-licensed drivers that they would be subject to a $2,000 fine and possible loss of their license if they accept passengers through Lyft.
Despite the warnings from the TLC, a spokeswoman for Lyft said there have been no changes to the plan to launch the service Friday. On Wednesday, the company released a "safety commitment" laying out its protocols.
"Where we differ with the TLC is that we do not believe its licensing and base station rules apply to the Lyft ridesharing model," read a statement from the company.
"It's important to clarify that our differences of opinion are not about safety standards, and that's because we put safety first."