A ‘Lyft’ From Your Smartphone Comes to Philadelphia

Philadelphia is about to get a “Lyft” that could cause further headaches for the Philadelphia Parking Authority already dealing with the ridesharing cutting into traditional taxi business.

Lyft, the ridesharing service/app known for its pink mustache, will begin serving Philadelphia Friday night, the company announced Tuesday.

“Lyft’s friendly drivers -- like Renee, a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania and Dave, a local pub owner -- will be ready to provide welcoming, memorable, and affordable rides,” the company wrote on its blog.

But the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates taxi and limousine services in the city, is ready to go after Lyft, like it did with UberX, for operating in the city.

"The PPA will fully enforce all existing laws prohibiting illegal hack taxi service in the city of Philadelphia," said Vince Fenerty, PPA's executive director, in a news release Tuesday. 

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

The San Francisco-based service lets people request rides in private cars on their smartphones and promises to serve the city from “Rittenhouse to South Philly to Fishtown.”

The drivers, however, should cart passengers at their own risk, warned Fenerty, who said they could face fines and even jail time.

"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," he said. "Drivers are committing a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $2,500 and/or a one-year jail sentence."

The regulations need to catch up with current services, according to a Lyft spokeswoman, who added the company will support its drivers should they incur any legal troubles.

"Current rules for taxis and limos were created long before anything like Lyft was ever imagined," Chelsea Wilson said in a statement Tuesday.

"In any case of citation, Lyft will respond immediately to provide support and will also cover the costs of the citations and any necessary legal assistance," Wilson said.  "Lyft drivers are also covered by $1 million of commercial liability coverage, which acts as primary to a driver's personal policy from the time the driver has been matched with a passenger until the ride ends in the app."

Representatives with the rideshare service have spoken with city officials, including the PPA, about the company's "strong commitment to safety and peer-to-peer model," added Wilson, who said Lyft drivers undergo extensive criminal background and driving history checks, as well as a 19-point vehicle inspection.

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