ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The controversial launch—or lack thereof—of Lyft is a “make-or-break” moment for St. Louis, but for different reasons from different points of view.
The much-discussed ride sharing service uses a smartphone app to connect people who need rides with people who’ve got a car. The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission calls that a taxi service and demands the San Francisco start-up abide by its rules and regulations. Lyft says it doesn’t have to.
Lyft drivers’ puffy pink mustaches were a target for authorities last weekend, starting just 90 minutes after the service launched Friday night.
Local cab driver Umar Lee wants to see Lyft, competitor Uber, and all other car-sharing services shut-down. He calls Lyft part of the “Walmartiziation of America.”
“It’s very arrival will hurt good, working-class jobs, including cab drivers in St. Louis,” he told KMOX News. “It’s going to hurt a lot of people.”
Lee’s weekend tweets asked “did Ayn Rand start #lyft?” and declared that the service’s hipster proponents “support a flaunting of white-privilege.”
He explained: “The ride sharing concept is an elite concept. You have to have a smartphone. You have to have a credit card. It’s designed to serve a certain population. It’s not designed to serve the working class and poor population of St. Louis.”
Marshall Haas also believes how the city handles Lyft is crucial for the city’s future — but for different reasons. He got a lot of attention for moving his start-up from San Francisco to St. Louis and has heaped a lot of praise on the local innovation scene. He convinced a friend to move his business from Seattle.
But Haas cautions: “That perception outside of St. Louis can quickly be ruined by the public story of ‘city bans Lyft.’ That’s just not the kind of thing that other entrepreneurs are going to take kindly to, I don’t think.
“Entrepreneurs are attracted to going into a marketplace and winning by building a better system or a better business model or a better product,” he told KMOX News.
Haas stresses that he hasn’t had a bad experience with local government, and he’s concerned because he wants to see St. Louis flourish.
A spokesman for the taxicab commission, meantime, stresses that it is currently negotiating with Uber and that it attempted—to no avail— to do the same with Lyft.
Instead of playing a game of Battleship with pink mustached-automobiles, the commission hopes to get an injunction against the whole thing Monday afternoon.