- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Drivers for smartphone-based ridesharing services are facing steep fines from Salt Lake City officials, who assert the drivers are running unlicensed taxi services.

Amanda Wardell, a single mom who works as a driver with app-based service Lyft, said she received a ticket for $6,500.

“I haven’t made that much driving for Lyft, so there aren’t words to describe how it felt to see that,” Wardell said.

Another driver, college student Angie Palmer, said she’s received two $6,500 tickets from the city.

Drivers for the companies use their own vehicles to pick up riders, who request a car by using an app on their smartphone. Many drivers only work for a few hours a week and share the fares they collect with the companies.

Lyft officials argue the ridesharing is different from taxi services.

David Everitt, chief of staff to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, says the city has issued more than 100 warnings and fined 17 drivers.

The city employs secret shoppers to hail rides on Lyft or Uber, a similar service. The city later sends a registered letter to the drivers that includes the ticket and fine.

“If you are someone making money providing a ground transportation service, you need a ground transportation license,” he said. “That’s the way it’s always been in the city.”

Enforcing license rules ensure the city isn’t giving the new services an unfair advantage over traditional companies such as taxis, shuttles and limousine services, he said.

Lyft has been fighting tickets, arguing the current laws do not apply to ridesharing. The company is offering an attorney and paying fines for drivers in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in the country.

“We will continue to stand strong with drivers and passengers every step of the way, fighting any citations, covering relevant costs and making policy,” Lyft spokeswoman Katie Dally told The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/V8h6gn ).

She said Lyft supports regulations but the company’s policies about insurance and safety often go above and beyond current taxi standards.

Everitt said Salt Lake City hopes to create a new license tailored for drivers on Lyft or similar services in order to ensure the companies are licensed and insured.

That might remove some unnecessary requirements for the services but ensure they’re playing by the rules, he said.

“The city really wants to welcome these kinds of services,” Everitt said. “I think they are going to be a great addition to the ground transportation options in our city.”

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