Just two days before Lyft was planning to debut its ride sharing service in New York City's outer boroughs, city officials warned that the service remained "unauthorized" and that participating drivers could face stiff penalties.
"Lyft has not complied with [the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission's] safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service," the New York City TLC said in a statement, "and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers."
Unlicensed drivers who fall short of drug, background, emissions or safety standards could face fines of up to $2,000 or even risk losing their vehicles, the agency warned. Licensed drivers could also be subject to fines of up to $2,000 for accepting a ride through an unlicensed dispatcher.
The warning came as Lyft prepared to debut its service on Friday in Brooklyn and Queens, recruiting 500 new drivers and promoting two weeks of free trips for new riders.
Lyft argues that its drivers face stricter background and safety standards than New York taxi drivers, and that some 75,000 people have already used the app to hail one of their iconic mustachioed cars.
"The public is reminded that they should not get into a vehicle without a TLC license," the TLC warned (emphasis theirs). The public may decide for themselves, however, on Friday at 7 p.m., when the service is scheduled to roll out regardless of the TLC's warnings.