Lyft ride sharing to launch in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — The ride sharing app Lyft will launch a fleet of local drivers Friday night in Salt Lake City.

Lyft's app-based rider sharing program allows people who need a ride to pick a driver in their area then pay with their credit card in the app.

The service aims to build community by linking drivers with people who need rides. Lyft states in their ads for drivers and promotional videos that drivers can meet a new person every day while making up to $25 per hour.

Some Salt Lake City leaders are mulling over how the service will fit in among more conventional transportation options.

"We know that this type of mobility option is certainly very interesting," said Robin Hutcheson, Salt Lake City's Transportation Director. "Whether it's good or bad is beside the point. It's an evolution in how people are choosing to be transported."

Since it is a new concept, this type of ride-sharing service isn't regulated in Utah.

Several taxi companies said Lyft should be regulated the same way they are. And taxi drivers spend a lot of money to get properly registered with the city.

The Salt Lake City Airport Ground Transportation office is in charge of enforcing those regulations. Manager Larry Bowers didn't even know about Lyft's impending launch until today.

Bowers said he intends to consult with the Mayor's office, because he believes Lyft drivers would be operating illegally.

Currently, ground transportation operators have to carry a business license, must be badged through the airport and must undergo strict security screenings from the Transportation Security Administration.

Bowers says he believes "substantial penalties" and fines are likely if Lyft drivers operate without becoming properly registered through the city.

A Lyft spokesperson said that each of their drivers undergo thorough background checks and vehicle inspections. They are also backed by $1 million in additional liability insurance through the company.

Hutcherson said she's taking a close look how Lyft and other ride-sharing apps have fared in other cities.

"We know that it does provide people with other options in mobility, so it's certainly something that we're interested in seeing how it evolves nationally and here as well," Hutcherson said.


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