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Lyft Suspends Operations in Houston

Lyft Suspends Operations in Houston

I heard from drivers last night that the Lyft community manager sent out emails to Houston drivers informing them that Lyft was suspending operations on Houston on November 20th.

Houston passed a law legalizing Lyft and Uber, but required rideshare drivers to get a few permits and to submit to a background check. Lyft complained about how many drivers would be too burdened to do those tests and pay for them. According to this article, it would only cost $62, which sounds reasonable to be legal. You can read more at the link here and a snippet from the article is below:

The city’s new requirements, set to take effect November 4, will require Houston applicants to use a state fingerprint-based background check company, rather than the online background check system that Lyft currently uses. Drivers must also submit to a warrant check, be drug-tested and give the city their personal information.

While many of the new regulations mirror the safety checks already in place for Lyft drivers, the company says the expense of the new screenings — a whopping $62 — is too much to ask of contractors who consider their ride-sharing a hobby or side job.

Below was the email that drivers got last night informing them of the decision.

 Here was Lyft’s official response:

Lyft says the new standards would require fire extinguishers in all cars and would force drivers to take medical exams. The city’s methods would make it impossible for Lyft’s part-time drivers, the company said in a statement.

At this time, it is unclear if Lyft will be resuming operations anytime soon. The regulation is clear and I don’t know what Lyft has to gain by ceasing operations and refusing to take part in these additional tests and regulations and allowing Uber to get a higher market share in Houston. The fire extinguisher sounds like a minor issue unless I am missing something. This is the second city they have ceased operations in over the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, Lyft also ceased operations in Kansas City, just as the World Series was returning to Kansas City for games 6 and 7.

In their email, they noted that the advance notice would give drivers time to plan for the pause in operations. I believe they mean that you should sign up for Uber to keep working.

[Update: Uber has a process in place to help existing drivers meet the new policies and regulations. They have extra staff locally in Houston to help out any drivers who are trying to get certified under the current law]

Here was a snippet from a Houston Driver on the permitting process by Uber:

You would be wise to take full advantage of the incredible effort that Uber has done to facilitate and streamline the whole process.

Normally you would have to go to two or three separate gov locations, after waiting for 2 to 3 weeks for an appointment, for getting the permit, fingerprinted by DPA and the vehicle inspection.

UBER leaned hard on the separate agencies to consolidate the whole process and one building and they have tons of people waiting to process as many drivers as possible. The process is super efficient and they even had personnel coming in from Dallas in order to handle the extra volume.But the important thing to keep in mind, is they will only have this process in place for about two weeks! After that you’re on your own.

I was also notified that if an inspector catches you driving for Lyft you will get an automatic citation, because Lyft is not sponsoring any drivers. You cannot list them as the company you’re driving for, since they have very publicly already announced that there will not be working with the city of Houston!

Since I had my paperwork in order, it didn’t take me more than about half an hour to do the whole process.

The hours for licensing are from 7am to 7pm! You can sign up for licensing in Houston (with Uber) at t.uber.com/HOUappointment

You can also go to their office hours. They are located at 5504 Morningside Drive, Houston, TX, in Rice Village. Hours for existing partners are Monday and Tuesday from 4pm-6pm.

This is one reason why any Lyft driver should sign up for Uber in any market to ensure that these decisions doesn’t disrupt your income and also to maximize your income. The $500 promotion for Lyft Drivers to switch to Uber is still in effect nationwide (as of 11/5/2014). You can take a look if you qualify for a $500 bonus at http://ridesharedashboard.com/2014/09/06/lyft-drivers-can-still-get-500-bonus-uber/

What are your thoughts about Lyft’s decision to pull out of Houston? Do you think they were doing it for the drivers or doing it for themselves?

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