[UPDATE BELOW] And so continues Lyft's sad, sad NYC saga. The ride-share service that was set to launch in Brooklyn and Queens today has been slapped with restraining orders from the Attorney General's office and the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Lyft's been fighting a tough battle this week. Yesterday, the TLC came out swinging, claiming the e-hail app was an "unauthorized service" because its drivers are not licensed by the commission, and threatened to seize Lyft drivers' vehicles and fine them. The service was also issued a cease-and-desist notice by the state Department of Finances over insurance-related concerns, and local lawmakers said they were still evaluating whether Lyft complied with city laws.
The service claimed the show would still go on—with a 7 p.m. launch planned for today. But the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says it's a no-go, arguing Lyft violates a number of city laws, “including most notably provisions of the Insurance and Vehicle and Traffic Law," according to court papers filed today. The TLC has also reportedly hit Lyft with a restraining order.
Meanwhile, criticisms against Lyft continue to pile up. Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement today that "“Lyft is operating completely outside the regulatory framework, and is "non-compliant with city regulations on vehicle safety, driver training and background checks," putting the city's Vision Zero efforts in jeopardy.
Lyft has not yet responded to request for comment, and its unclear whether the company will go through with today's launch. According to a statement from company spokesperson Erin Simpson: "We are in a legal process with local regulators today and will proceed accordingly. We always seek to work collaboratively with leaders in the interests of public safety and the community, as we've done successfully in cities and states across the country, and hope to find a path forward for ridesharing in New York."
Lyft's launch party in Bushwick tonight is going to be a tad awkward.
Update 3:59 p.m.: Looks like Lyft's pushing back their start date.
— Andrew J. Hawkins (@andyjayhawk) July 11, 2014
Here's Schneiderman's statement:
“After Lyft rejected a reasonable request by the State to delay its launch, we filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in State Supreme Court this morning. As a result of that action, the court has granted the State a temporary restraining order preventing Lyft from launching this evening in New York City. We will return to court on Monday, to address issues pertaining to Buffalo and Rochester in addition to New York City.
"We pursued this action only after repeatedly offering to work with Lyft in order to ensure that its business practices complied with the law. Instead of collaborating with the State to help square innovation with statute and protect the public, as other technology companies have done as recently as this week, Lyft decided to move ahead and simply ignore state and local laws. Lyft’s arguments are a disingenuous attempt to disguise old-fashioned law-breaking that jeopardizes public safety.
"We are pro-innovation and pro-competition, but allowing Lyft to flout dozens of different laws would, in addition to putting the safety of New Yorkers at risk, put law-abiding competitors at a substantial disadvantage -- and discourage innovators from innovating in a place where the regulatory environment is unevenly applied. We are committed to fostering a competitive marketplace where each participant is treated fairly.
"We are hopeful that Lyft will now recognize that it has to play by the same set of rules as everyone else."
Update 5:06 p.m.: A Lyft spokesperson confirms the company has pushed back the launch. Here is her full statement:
There was no TRO or injunction granted today. Instead, the judge adjourned to Monday and we agreed to hold our launch and maintain status quo. We are obtaining the court transcript, and we will obtain statements by those in court to show this is a deliberate misstatement by the AG and DFS. There would be no need for a hearing on Monday if a TRO or injunction was granted. As further proof that court was adjourned, the AG's insurance claims were never presented and Lyft had no opportunity to respond. We agreed in New York State Supreme Court to put off the launch of Lyft's peer-to-peer model in New York City and we will not proceed with this model unless it complies with New York City Taxi and Limousine regulations. We will meet with the TLC beginning Monday to work on a new version of Lyft that is fully-licensed by the TLC, and we will launch immediately upon the TLC's approval. This is a positive step forward and a good demonstration of compromise in balancing innovation with government regulation, and we appreciate the continued efforts of New York City government to find common ground for the betterment of New York. We will celebrate our upcoming launch at an event tonight as scheduled with members of New York's Lyft community.