There's a new kid in town, and Kansas City government officials are concerned about its unconventional arrival.
Lyft, a San Francisco-based transportation network company that connects people through a mobile app, started business in the area on April 24. Users request a ride and they are matched with a driver from the Lyft community.
“They [Lyft] came into town last Thursday, and apparently they are operating illegally,” says Austin Alonzo, a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal. “That’s what the city says.”
The Regulated Industries Division issued Lyft a letter on April 14 saying it is in violation of several city ordinances and three specific city ordinances, Alonzo says. Lyft officials have yet to respond to the citations.
"It's also been kind of offensive to the established taxi companies here in Kansas City because they've said this company 'doesn't have to follow the same rules that we have to,'" says Alonzo. "'They don't have to pay the same fees and do all the stuff that we have to.'"
To operate legally, taxi services must pay registration fees, insure their vehicles and hire licensed drivers.
"The City said it's a safety-related thing," Alonzo says. "That way you know that your driver has been background checked. You feel safer knowing that they [taxi drivers] are fully licensed, that they've gone through the inspections and that they are insured."
The City expressed its safety concerns regarding Lyft in a blog post on May 6.
"...the City will not allow any firm to waltz into town with a business model that does not ensure public safety without taking measures to keep riders safe. That would be an affront to our duty to ensure public welfare."
Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez confirmed that the City and Lyft have scheduled their first official meeting for this week.