Lyft Takes a Round Against St. Louis Taxi Commission

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – A city judge lifted a preliminary injunction barring Lyft from operating in the St. Louis area and dismissed the lawsuit, but it’s unclear whether the company is out of the Missouri woods yet.
     Lyft uses a smart phone app that lets users look for drivers offering rides. There is no set payment, but passengers are encouraged, though not required, to make a donation at the end of the ride. Drivers outfit their cars with pink mustaches.
     The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) filed a lawsuit in April 2014 after Lyft began operating without its permission. A judge issued a preliminary injunction, shutting down Lyft operations.
     Central to the litigation was the question whether Lyft is a taxi service. Lyft claimed it is not, but the MTC said it still could regulate the company.
     Ironically, it was a recent addition to its own code on Sept. 18 that sank the MTC’s case. The addition addressed services such as Lyft and Uber, classifying them as transportation network companies.
     “Section 14.1 specifically states that ‘Transportation Network Company service is not a taxicab or street hail service,'” Circuit Judge Joan L. Moriarty wrote in Tuesday’s decision. “Consequently, any judgment rendered by this Court upon the existing Amended Petition would have no practical effect and the preliminary injunction must be dissolved and the case dismissed.”
     Lyft did not respond Thursday to an email request for comment.
     It is unclear if or when the company will resume service in the St. Louis area. St. Louis is not listed as one of the cities Lyft serves on its website.
     Richard Callow, a spokesman for the MTC, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Lyft must still be certified by the MTC before it can legally operate.
     Both MTC and state law require drivers to be fingerprinted as part of a background check. The MTC also requires drivers to have a chauffeur’s license.
     Uber filed a lawsuit in September against the MTC, claiming the fingerprints were too onerous for its drivers and alleging other anti-competitive practices committed by the MTC. Uber began operating without MTC approval at the same time.
     In October, the MTC filed a lawsuit against Uber, seeking a restraining order to keep Uber from operating in the St. Louis area.
     Both lawsuits are pending in Federal Court.

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