Austin impounds Lyft drivers’ cars

In this March 12, 2014 photo, passenger Katie Baranyuk, left, and Dara Jenkins, right, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, perform Lyft's trademark fist-bump as they pose for a photo after Baranyuk got a ride from Jenkins to downtown Seattle to meet friends after work. In a fight pitting upstart technology and traditional business, app-based ridesharing firms are fighting with taxi companies for supremacy in the Seattle market. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this March 12, 2014 photo, passenger Katie Baranyuk, left, and Dara Jenkins, right, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, perform Lyft's trademark fist-bump as they pose for a photo after Baranyuk got a ride from Jenkins to downtown Seattle to meet friends after work. In a fight pitting upstart technology and traditional business, app-based ridesharing firms are fighting with taxi companies for supremacy in the Seattle market. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two drivers for the popular ridesharing company Lyft were ticketed and had their vehicles impounded Saturday.

The City of Austin reports both Lyft drivers were cited for not having a valid city chauffeur’s license.

According to a statement by the Austin Transportation Department, a chauffeur’s permit is required for any driver who is being paid by a company or passenger for more than the $0.56 per mile Federal Reimbursement rate.

City officials announced Thursday that Lyft drivers could be cited and have their vehicles impounded if caught driving passengers for pay.

“If an unpermitted service provider accepts payment for ground transportation services that is higher than the federal reimbursement rate of 56 cents per mile, then they are in violation of the law,” the city said in statement. “Drivers do not receive a citation unless they actively accept payment, and an officer has witnessed the violation.”

A third driver was also cited for operating without a valid city chauffeur’s license and driving with an invalid license.

Weekend enforcement

The Austin Transportation Department’s Ground Transportation Enforcement Teams work throughout the week citing ground transportation drivers who operate without valid permits.

According to a statement from Lyft, the city conducted a sting operation near the Four Seasons hotel which resulted in the citations and impoundments.

“This weekend, staff from the City of Austin organized a sting operation that resulted in 3 citations and 2 temporary car impounds. In at least one of the cases, staff purposely left cash behind in an effort to entrap a driver. As a reminder, no cash is exchanged as part of the Lyft platform and free ride credits are currently being used for all Lyft rides.”

“We responded immediately to provide support and we are also covering the cost of impound fees and any necessary legal assistance. We’re always committed to supporting the Lyft community, especially as we work through challenges at the city levels to help leaders better understand this unique model and the benefit it brings to Austin,” Lyft spokeswoman Katie Dally said in a statement to KXAN News.

Lyft enthusiasm sets record

“Austin’s enthusiasm for Lyft made the Lyft Austin kickoff the biggest launch weekend Lyft has ever had. Our first weekend in Austin shattered all our previous ride records,” Dally said.

The company reports more than 15,000 Austin residents have downloaded the Lyft app.

At odds with the city

“Lyft firmly believes our platform is operating legally, as Austin’s transportation code does not contemplate our peer-to-peer model,” Dally said in the statement. “We look forward to working with policy makers to serve a public that is overwhelmingly embracing ridesharing as a much-needed transportation option in Austin.”

“We’re committed to working with the City of Austin to craft new rules for this new industry, as we’re currently doing successfully in more than sixty cities across the country. Throughout this process, we also commit to standing strong with drivers and passengers every step of the way, fighting any citations, covering “

Thursday, prior to Lyft’s official launch in Austin, the Austin Transportation Department said it is working on a process to establish a pilot program for transportation network companies in Austin.

“The Austin Transportation Department’s role is to enforce the Austin City Code, and as the Code is written today when a driver is paid to provide ground transportation services, the providing company must be permitted and the driver must have chauffeur’s permit.”

ATD reported it had not been contacted by any transportation network companies seeking permitting.

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