Cars with large, furry pink mustaches strapped to the grill are now cruising Oklahoma City streets — a symbol of the mobile ridesharing service Lyft.
The app-based service launched in Oklahoma City this past week with a team of about 40 local drivers signed up to earn money by giving people rides in their personal vehicles. Customers use the Lyft app on their smart phone to request a ride. Lyft drivers fasten an oversized hot pink, furry mustache to the grill of their car before picking up a fare and greet passengers with the company’s signature fist bump.
Oklahoma City is one of 24 U.S. cities where San Francisco-based Lyft launched its app-based ride sharing network. The service is giving out free rides in its new cities for the next two weeks to promote its expansion.
Right now, Lyft’s service area stretches from north Oklahoma City to Mustang, Yukon, Moore and most of Norman, but the service plans to gradually expand its coverage area.
Shayla Cornett signed up to become one of the Lyft’s first Oklahoma City drivers and is a founding mentor of the service locally, meaning she has been helping to promote Lyft’s expansion into Oklahoma City on social media and by handing out fliers and temporary mustache tattoos. She also helps people through the process of becoming Lyft drivers by doing vehicle inspections.
A stay-at-home mom, Cornett said she liked flexibility Lyft offered her by being able to choose her own hours and if and when she decides to take a customer.
“What a great thing to be doing two days week,” Cornett said.
Cornett said she feels safe being a driver because each Lyft user’s account is linked to a credit card and their Facebook profile. She’s also able to pass on any passenger she isn’t comfortable giving a ride.
Cornett zalso was attracted Lyft’s company philosophy of building community. Oklahoma City Lyft drivers met up Thursday to have pizza and celebrate the launch of the ridesharing service locally.
“As a stay-at-home mom, I can still get interaction with other adults and meet new people,” Cornett said.
Lyft, and the competing ridesharing service Uber, which launched in Oklahoma City last year, have been drawing the ire of taxi cab companies and other transportation companies that say the ridesharing services are essentially operating as unlicensed taxi services.
“We don’t call them ridesharing services, we call them unlicensed transportation providers,” said David Sutton, spokesman for the ‘Who’s Driving You?’ campaign, launched the industry group the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association. The campaign claims that ridesharing services are unsafe and unregulated.
“These services are under-invested and lack key essentials for public safety,” Sutton said.
Lyft and Uber drivers aren’t required to carry commercial insurance, like taxi and limousine services in the state, said Charles Cotton, president of the industry group the Oklahoma Limousine Association, who also owns VIP Limousine Co. The lack of regulations for ridesharing services gives the services an unfair competitive advantage and also creates a dangerous situation for consumers, he said.
“We don’t mind competition as long as its fair and square and they are regulated,” Cotton said.
Cotton filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office alleging ridesharing services are operating illegally in the state because they are unlicensed and unregulated.
According to an information sheet that Lyft provided to The Oklahoman on its insurance and safety standards, the company has up to $1 million in liability and uninsured/under-insured policies over driver’s personal insurance polices.
Drivers also must have their vehicles inspected and their drivers’ records checked.
“Every driver is screened for criminal offenses and driving incidents,” Lyft said in a statement. “The criminal background check includes national and county-level databases, as well as national sex offender registries.”
A bill working its way through the Oklahoma Legislature this session would place ridesharing services under the supervision of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Senate Bill 1703 sets minimum insurance requirements for ride sharing services, but would exempt drivers from commercial driver requirements.
The bill has been referred to the Senate transportation committee.