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Need a Lyft? St. Louis judge issues restraining order against rideshare app in St. Louis City and County

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s online website:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/nick-pistor/st-louis-judge-orders-lyft-app-to-be-disabled-in/article_39b51215-7f75-545f-b763-f2b61a142cb8.html

a St. Louis Circuit Court Judge, David Dowd, entered a temporary restraining order finding that immediate and irreparable harm will or may result in the form of risk to the public by allowing the online ride share app Lyft to engage in the business of transporting passengers in commerce without being duly licensed under the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission Vehicle for Hire Code.  The relief granted in the restraining order is quite sweeping: it requires Lyft to “…disable its software application from use by prospective riders within the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County.” 

The request for a temporary restraining order was filed by the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, Case No. 1422-CC00890, against Lyft, which the Commission alleges to be a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in San Francisco, California.

According to online sources, Lyft is a smartphone ride-sharing app that matches riders with drivers.  Using the app, people needing a ride can see other drivers who are nearby who have registered through Lyft to be available to provide rides using their personal cars.  The riders don’t need cash because they provide a credit card when they sign up for the app.  The payments for the ride are called “donations” rather than fares.  Here’s the apparent rub for the taxi cab industry – although drivers are apparently screened by Lyft,  neither the drivers nor Lyft are licensed or regulated by the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission. 

Although the restraining order cites safety concerns as the basis for its issuance, it’s clear that the traditional taxi industry is also concerned about losing business to Lyft and the other ride share apps that are popping up in major cities across the country. 

For example, a local cab driver in St. Louis was quoted as calling Lyft “part of the Walmartization of America” and likened Lyft drivers to “scab” workers:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/nick-pistor/st-louis-cab-driver-compares-lyft-to-walmart-blasts-hipsters/article_6d44b4ed-91ca-57c2-a44c-39b961e07934.html

Judge Dowd set the matter for a hearing on the Metropolitan St. Louis Taxicab Commission’s motion for a preliminary injunction for May 6, 2014, so stay tuned for further developments.