Citizen chauffeur service Lyft plans to launch in Minneapolis despite ban

Tyler Gieseke

Setting the stage for conflict with Minneapolis officials, the car-sharing business Lyft is scheduled to launch in Minneapolis on Thursday, news sources report.

Through Lyft, regular citizens use their own cars to drive customers where they need to go, Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen said. Drivers and passengers coordinate using a mobile app, and customers can choose whether to give a donation through the app at the end of the ride.

Lyft has already operated in St. Paul since August, the Star Tribune reported, but Minneapolis officials have said Lyft is a taxi service under their city’s ordinance. This classification would require drivers to get licenses, which doesn’t fit Lyft’s business model, the Tribune said.

Lyft’s Director of Communications Erin Simpson disagrees with officials’ reading of city ordinance, the Pioneer Press reported.

“Lyft is new and not accounted for in the existing frameworks for taxis and hired vehicles,” Simpson told the Pioneer Press. “Ordinances for taxis do not cover Lyft. Lyft does not violate any existing city law.”

Grant Wilson, the Minneapolis' head of business licensing, told the Tribune that the city would enforce its code if Lyft goes through with the launch.

“We intend to provide the same enforcement if we find Lyft vehicles operating in the city, picking up passengers as if they were a licensed taxicab,” Wilson told the Tribune. “We will ticket the driver, ticket the company and impound the vehicle for not having commercial insurance.”