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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

Salt Lake City Council discusses options to keep rideshare companies in the city

By Emilee Eagar, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 14 10:20 p.m. MDT

 Many peer-to peer ridesharing company drivers are operating illegally in Salt Lake City and accruing hefty fines. The City Council met Tuesday to discuss ordinance changes that will keep the drivers on the street.

Many peer-to peer ridesharing company drivers are operating illegally in Salt Lake City and accruing hefty fines. The City Council met Tuesday to discuss ordinance changes that will keep the drivers on the street.

(Michael Anderson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Everytime a passenger hops in her car, Angie Palmer offers them a Hi-Chew and a fist bump.

"Our whole platform is: your friend with a car," she said. "Anyone that gets into my car (is) automatically my best friend."

Palmer is a driver for Lyft, a company that launched in the city last April.

It's a peer-to-peer ridesharing company that offers rides from community-based drivers and has become a popular resource for many commuters.

But the pink mustaches that grace Lyft cars are also catching the attention of Salt Lake City officials.

"Currently, if you are someone who makes money giving someone a ride, providing ground transportation services to someone, you need to have a ground transportation license," said David Everitt, Mayor Ralph Becker's chief of staff.

But Palmer, like many Lyft drivers, is not driving with a ground transportation license.

The city has issued 111 warnings and 17 citations to drivers for Lyft and a similar company called Uber.

Palmer has received two citations at $6,500 apiece.

"It's just a little fight we have to go through," Palmer said.

But Everitt said he's fighting to keep companies like Lyft and Uber operating in Salt Lake City — just legally.

"These are the kind of transportation options we want our residents to have," he said. "Let's figure out a way to make this work."

Everitt approached the City Council on Tuesday with recommendations for ordinance changes that will allow for such companies.

He suggested eliminating a 30-minute prearrangement time requirement, a $30 minimum charge, and a minimum number of taxi cabs and number of taxi cab companies, and he lobbied for emergency powers for ground transportation.

"We welcome more transportation options for our residents and visitors in particular, and we want to embrace them," Everitt said. "But we want to do so in a way that's fair to other ground transportation providers and also ensures basic issues of safety for customers."

Two online petitions are rallying for support to keep the rideshare companies in Salt Lake City.

As of Thursday, a change.org petition started by a Lyft driver has nearly 400 supporters, and another at moveon.org has almost 600.

"People like this service. They want this service here," Palmer said. "People in Salt Lake love it. They haven't been happy with what transportation options they've had in regards to taxis and shuttles."

Lyft spokeswoman Katie Dally said in an email that the regulations surrounding taxis and limousines were created long before companies like Lyft were introduced.

"With creative thinking, regulations can be revisited to allow new industries to grow and thrive while still maintaining the highest level of safety," Dally said.

Lyft drivers go through background checks, she said, and community members are also protected with a $1 million commercial liability insurance coverage.

"We will continue to stand strong with drivers and passengers every step of the way, fighting any citations, covering relevant costs, and making policy progress," Dally said.

To use Lyft, riders download an app and request a ride. The closest driver will pick them up and take them to their destination.

Passengers are charged a $1 trust and safety fee, a base charge of $1.15 and there is a minimum cost is $4. Riders are charged by both distance, $1.40 per mile, and time, $0.18 per minute.

Palmer said Salt Lake County residents love the service so much because it's fast, cheap, and most of all, she said, "they love our drivers."

"There's never going to be a time where taxis aren't going to be relevant," Palmer said. "They just need to update their system with technology."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

Recommended
1. Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

He suggested eliminating a 30-minute prearrangement time requirement, a $30 minimum charge, and a minimum number of taxi cabs and number of taxi cab companies.

Those are but a few of the problems with taxi's in the city, 30-minute prearrangement time requirement?

Safety, the bar is closing, oh yeah you can't call a taxi.

Horrible public transportation UTA part of the problem, not solution.

2. NedGrimley
Brigham City, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

Grateful that it is being discussed and they are looking for an option to allow the services to continue. There needs to be some consideration on both sides and some agreement as well as reasonable and fair regulation.

However, don't regulate simply so an outdated, inefficient model can continue to survive.