State puts the brakes on ride-sharing service

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – You may have seen those pink moustaches around town, but now they could get shaved from the streets of Buffalo, after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took California-based Lyft to court.

Late Friday afternoon, the Attorney General announced his office obtained a Temporary Restraining Order, along with the State Department of Financial Services, barring Lyft from operating in New York, specifically putting a damper on the company’s grand opening in New York City set for Friday night.

Lyft was all set to launch as many as 500 vehicles with the funny moustache on the grill in New York City. Lyft president and CEO John Zimmer even made the trip to the Big Apple from San Francisco to give his drivers a morale “lyft” and pep talk, before the grand opening.

Zimmer told a group of drivers who have signed up for Lyft, “As you may have heard, we are going to face challenges along the way.”

Zimmer is promoting Lyft as a way of easing the burden of owning and operating a car. That burden he said, “comes in the form of parking. That comes in the form of traffic. That comes in the form of expenses and maintenance and insurance. So, when you can provide a service that eliminates all those that eliminates all those things, it’s a very exciting proposition.”

But now those plans for a New York City launch may be put on hold, now that the Attorney General has apparently been granted the restraining order by a state judge in New York City.

Even though the pink moustache first landed in Buffalo and Rochester back in April, the court order only applies specifically to New York City, but Mayor Byron Brown said Buffalo is cracking down on Lyft, effective immediately.

“They need proper licensing and insurance, and based on the review from the Attorney General’s office and the city Law Department, we don’t believe that those conditions exist.”

Mayor Brown says, he is authorizing Buffalo police and code enforcement officers to ticket Lyft drivers who are not properly licensed or insured. Although in other areas, officials have actually impounded Lyft drivers’ vehicles.

Bill Yuhnke, president of Liberty and Yellow Cab companies is pleased with the decision, and said it is all about fairness, “If I went to McDonald’s and I would put up a grill and sell hamburgers, how long do you think I could operate there?”

A Lyft spokesperson is challenging the state’s claim of obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order, saying the company voluntarily delayed the launch planned for Friday.

In an email sent to News 4 late Friday afternoon, spokesperson Katie Dally wrote, “We agreed to hold our launch and maintain status quo.”

Dally further stated, “We agreed in New York State Supreme Court to put off the launch of Lyft’s peer-to-peer model in New York City and we will not proceed with this model unless it complies with New York City Taxi and Limousine regulations.”

The Attorney General, the Department of Financial Services, and attorneys for Lyft plan to return to court Monday to settle Buffalo’s and Rochester’s Lyft issues.

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