Lyft wants to compete in Arkansas against ride-sharing rival Uber

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 1,551 views 

Arkansas taxi cab drivers could possibly have yet another competitor nearly three-1/2 years after Uber first arrived in the Natural State.

San Francisco-based ridesharing company Lyft Inc., has filed an application with the Arkansas Public Service Commission to offer their ride-hailing service. Lyft, whose operations are now prohibited in Arkansas, was incorporated as a for profit company Lyft Drives Arkansas Inc. on May 1, according to business filings with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office.

Company spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison told Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday (Aug. 1) that Lyft would provide details of the company’s plans for Arkansas after the regulatory process at the PSC is completed.

“We are currently in the process of working to obtain our license with the PSC and hope to launch after the license has been approved. I don’t have any additional details to share in terms of timing until that has been completed …,” Harrison said.

PSC Executive Director John Bethel said the ride-sharing giant is the second San Francisco area company to seek a permit to operate a “Transportation Network Company” in Arkansas under legislation approved by state lawmakers in 2015. Lyft’s larger ride-sharing rival, Uber Technologies Inc., is also based in the Bay area and first started service in Arkansas in November 2014. Uber submitted its application to the PSC after Senate Bill 800, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, was passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson into law on April 4, 2015.

Under what is now Act 1050 of 2015, ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber must first obtain a permit to operate in Arkansas from the PSC and then pay an annual permit fee of $15,000. In addition, such companies seeking a permit in Arkansas must maintain primary automobile liability insurance policy with coverage of at least $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage while a company driver is engaged in a prearranged ride.

Among other things, the new law also regulates fares ride-sharing services can charge, and requires company drivers to be at least 19-years old, register with the PSC, have liability insurance, drive vehicles that pass safety checks, and only pick up passengers who hail a ride from a website, digital network or app.

And although Uber and other ride-sharing companies were first allowed operate in the metropolitan areas of Central and Northwest Arkansas prior to the passage of Act 1050, the new law enacted on July 22, 2015 now governs all ride-sharing activity across the state.

Bethel said Uber’s permit, operating in Arkansas as for-profit partnership Rasier LLC, was approved by the Commission nearly two years after Act 1050 became law. He said PSC staff is reviewing Lyft Drives Arkansas’ application to evaluate compliance with the statutory requirements and the requirements of the Commission’s “transportation network company” rules.

“We will file testimony presenting the results of our analysis,” Bethel said.

To date, the Commission has not set a schedule or hearing date for Lyft’s application, Bethel said. On July 19, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie filed as an “active party” in Lyft’s docket before the Commission.

“The Attorney General intervened to gather information to ensure the State is in the best position to support Arkansas consumers,” noted a statement from Rutledge’s office.

In Lyft’s 37-page application with the PSC on June 20, company representative Brett Collins filed testimony that the ride-sharing company’s fare calculation methods are disclosed on the company’s website and mobile application, as required by Act 1050. Collins’ filings also explains Lyft’s policies for its Arkansas drivers, which includes background checks and others rigorous rules to screen employees with bad driving records, sex offenses, and drug and alcohol convictions.

Uber has operations in 633 cities across the globe. Besides operations in the Central and Northwest Arkansas, the company announced in February it would begin providing service in Pine Bluff.

Unlike Uber operations is several cities across the globe, Lyft only offers ride-hailing service in the U.S. Harrison said the former startup company now operates in 46 states and the District of Columbia.