Is it city's job to regulate Lyft?
City leaders are going to consider an ordinance governing ride-sharing services like Lyft that has started operating in Aberdeen.
The plan is to put as much as possible into the draft — including regulations that Sioux Falls and Rapid City have implemented or are implementing — and to pare it back from there.
Lyft is considered a "transportation network company" under state law, which sets out a series of regulations for drivers.
The Sioux Falls City Council passed an ordinance requiring transportation network companies to pay an annual license fee of $1,500, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. That amount covers all drivers.
Lyft drivers are operating in Rapid City as the council works to incorporate Lyft regulations into an ordinance that was first drafted to regulate taxis, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Aberdeen City Manager Lynn Lander previously said the ordinance Rapid City is pondering would require vehicle inspections, background checks on drivers and language on how fees are collected. It appears, though, that Lyft already has the background check bit covered as they are required by state law.
In fact, according to Ron Wager, Aberdeen city attorney, "Transportation network company requirements are stricter than what we have for our taxi cab drivers."
So, wow much more involved in the regulation of ride-sharing services does the city want to get?
Certainly, council members should complete their due diligence. And taking a look at a draft ordinance that covers a lot of territory is fine, but there's no need for duplication or needlessly restricting free enterprise.
Taxis in Aberdeen have to be inspected every 120 days to make sure their speedometers, brakes, windshield wipers, lights and other features work. The vehicles must also have a spare tire and be clean.
We would argue inspecting private vehicles used for Lyft every four months is unnecessary — especially for a service that encourages customers to provide a rating for the service they get.
More restrictive to taxi services is that the city regulates the fees they can collect. The minimum fee is $3. The maximum — for up to 77 blocks, anyhow — is $7.50, though there can be charges for extra stops and passengers. Additionally, taxis can charge an extra dollar per ride between 9:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., per city ordinance. Lyft is not bound by those rate restrictions and, having found a legal workaround, should never be.
Wager said it might be time for the city council to consider updating its taxi ordinances. That probably makes more sense than imposing too many regulations on Lyft and any other ride-sharing services that come along.
Any advantage enjoyed by transportation network companies is a credit to their ingenuity. That shouldn't be punished.
In trying to be fair to all parties, the city needs to keep the people who need rides at the top of the list. The businesses are secondary.
Local drivers wasted no time in offering their services and vehicles to Lyft. Now, the city is in an awkward spot of trying to craft guidelines retroactively. It might be hard to unring the bell, so communication is key.