Taxi Commission Blocks Rideshare App Lyft in New York City

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    In this March 14, 2014, file photo, Jerad Bernard hands out cards to passers-by offering one free ride through the Lyft ridesharing service in Seattle.

    The Taxi and Limousine Commission has announced that the rideshare app Lyft is "unauthorized" to operate in New York City, just two days before the service was slated to debut.

    The commission said in a press release Wednesday that Lyft failed to comply with the city's safety and licensing criteria set for its drivers. TLC's main point of contention is that Lyft vehicles have not "undergone the rigorous safety and emissions inspections" and its drivers have not passed the required drug and background checks, the statement said.

    TLC also warned that drivers who sign up with Lyft risk losing their vehicles and may be subject to fines of up to $2,000.

    Lyft uses regular drivers to provide on-demand rides to users via its smartphone app. The company tagline "Your Friend with a Car" is an attempt to differentiate itself from its competitor Uber, which functions more like a yellow cab. Lyft riders are encouraged to sit in the front seat with the driver, much like you would when hitching a ride with a friend.

    Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told the The New York Times earlier this week that the company employs a rigorous vetting process for new drivers.

    "We have safety standards that are more strict than what New York City taxi cab or hired vehicles go through," Zimmer said.

    The San Francisco-based start-up has been vying for a piece of the rideshare pie currently being gobbled up by Uber, whose entry into the New York City market in 2012 was beset by its own set of legal issues, like city rules that prohibit yellow taxis from prearranging rides with passengers.