ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder says he isn’t a big Star Wars fan, but he knows he’d cast the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission as Darth Vader in a movie about the city’s Lyft controversy.
“It dismays me as a Missourian to see the empire striking back here,” Kinder declared on the witness stand Monday. He was called up to support Lyft, the embattled ride-sharing smartphone app.
The MTC claims it has jurisdiction to regulate services like Lyft, which use an app to connect people who need a ride with those who have seats in their car. The two are wrangling in court for a firmer ruling on the matter. In the meantime, Lyft is barred from providing rides or advertising its service in the city and county.
Kinder testified that he tried to hitch a Lyft shortly after its launch, but was unable to because of the temporary restraining order.
Earlier Monday, a Lyft official testified that St. Louis was the only city to succeed in sidelining the service (read more).
Kinder, meantime, chuckled while recalling proposals from his State Senate days to license chimney sweeps and interior designers, saying those efforts are usually just an attempt to keep out new, sometimes more innovative competition.
He thinks that’s what’s happening here: “I think it’s entirely the incumbent operators in the taxicab industry in the metropolitan area who are behind the aggressive action.”
Neil Bruntrager, an attorney for the MTC, got Kinder to admit that there are some fundamental similarities between ride-shares and taxicabs, notably the use of a phone to request one and the transport of people from point A to point B. Bruntrager also noted that 10 states’ insurance commissioners have questioned Lyft’s insurance policies.
“I understand why your client thinks they have to squash [Lyft],” Kinder lashed back.
After his testimony, Kinder told reporters that he’s concerned about St. Louis losing the luster of its “start-up city” image.
“It is of great interest of me to see St. Louis progress, and that means embracing new and alternative forms of economic participation,” he said.