The buzz around town over the past couple of weeks has been the supposed and manufactured controversy over Lyft’s entry into the Kansas City market. Many have demanded to know, “how can the City oppose such an entrepreneurial concept when it’s trying to be the most entrepreneurial city in the nation?!” Others have alleged that the City is in the back pocket of the taxi cab industry. Let’s take a moment to hit the brakes and get the facts.
First, let me be clear. The City has and will work with firms through our processes to gain compliance with our regulations. That’s called being innovative and entrepreneurial. In fact, City staff members have been working with ridesharing companies to bring new technology and new services to our community for months now. Lyft, however, didn’t make any contact with the City until the day they launched. Just because complying with public safety regulations does not meet a company’s public relations/marketing timeline, that does not preclude their obligation to do so, nor does it allow us to waive our responsibilities because the concept is popular on Twitter.
Second, the City will not allow any firm to waltz into town with a business model that does not ensure public safety without taking measures to keep riders safe. That would be an affront to our duty to ensure public welfare. Would you really want to patronize a restaurant who hasn’t been properly inspected to protect you and your family against illness? I, for one, would not want my family members to catch a ride with someone who may or may not have proper insurance if a wreck were to happen – and auto wrecks do happen. I also wouldn’t want them to catch a ride from someone who hasn’t undergone a city-conducted background check to prove they aren’t a violent criminal.
We have been working with Uber and zTrip so that they can operate under our current regulations. zTrip is operating legally and I’m hoping that Uber will choose to meet the necessary standards, which include background checks, proper driver’s license, and adequate insurance. Some consider these unnecessary hoops that they must jump through. I consider them reasonable safeguards for the citizens of our city.
This is not a case of the “big, bad City” out to set back entrepreneurs. This is a case where the City is willing to work with ridesharing companies in order to bring safe, innovative services to Kansas City. When those companies are ready to work cooperatively with us to protect the safety of citizens, and they meet public safety regulations, we’ll be ready to give them a green light.