KC Mayor On Lyft Rift: ‘Hit The Brakes And Get The Facts’

Ride-sharing service Lyft is scheduled for its St. Louis launch on Friday. | Courtesy of Creative Commons
Kansas City Mayor Sly James said ride-sharing service Lyft didn't make contact with Kansas City until the day it launched there. | Courtesy of Creative Commons

Just because a company has a pressing marketing deadline or vocal following on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s absolved from complying with public safety regulations, Kansas City Mayor Sly James wrote in a blog post responding to the “supposed and manufactured controversy” over the arrival of ride-sharing service Lyft in the Kansas City market.

James decried rumors that Kansas City is “in the back pocket of the taxi cab industry” in a post published Tuesday that sought to “hit the brakes and get the facts” about Lyft’s bumpy inroad into Kansas City.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James | Photo from kcmayor.org
Sly James | Photo from kcmayor.org

The San Francisco-based ride-sharing service, which lets users book cars through its smartphone app, arrived in Kansas City on April 24. Almost immediately, some of the city’s taxi companies, which are regulated and have to pay licensing fees, objected. Chris Hernandez, a spokesman for Kansas City, told the Kansas City Star at the time that “Lyft drivers would need to be permitted to do this, and the company would have to be licensed.”

Lyft has encountered similar opposition in other cities amidst its push to expand into 24 new markets nationwide. In St. Louis, a judge ordered the service shut down.

In Kansas City, James said, local officials have been working with ride-sharing companies Uber and zTrip “for months now” to bring those services to the area. But Lyft, he said, “didn’t make any contract with the City until the day they launched.”

James repeatedly rejected the notion that Kansas City is squelching entrepreneurship by barring Lyft.

“When those companies are ready to work cooperatively with us to protect the safety of citizens, and they meet public safety regulations,” he said, “we’ll be ready to give them a green light.”

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