Second ride-sharing company starts Kansas City service

05/09/2014 9:58 PM

05/09/2014 9:58 PM

Another ride-sharing service has dropped into Kansas City along with a possible fight over whether it’s legal.

UberX, a San Francisco company, uses a smartphone app to match drivers and their cars with people needing a ride. “Uber has arrived in the City of Fountains,” the company said in a blog post.

The company started its Kansas City service Friday morning and said it would provide free rides for the first two weeks.

UberX’s entry comes about two weeks after a different ride sharing service, Lyft, launched in Kansas City. Lyft is in a dispute with the city of Kansas City over whether it needs to follow taxicab regulations and license its drivers.

Both companies say they perform background checks and vehicle inspections and require drivers to have insurance, but the drivers aren’t licensed.

The Kansas City Council sought to make it crystal clear this week that Lyft is operating illegally and that taxicab and livery regulations apply to any driver accepting a fixed charge “or donation.”

Lyft argues that its business model is different from a taxicab. Instead of fares, it calculates a “suggested donation.”

“We’ll continue working hard with city officials to move forward with a more transparent process and secure a future for ridesharing that benefits Kansas City residents,” Lyft said in a statement Friday.

As long as UberX is truly free, it is not a business and not subject to city regulations, Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said Friday. But if UberX drivers start to charge fares, seek donations or take tips, then the city expects the service to comply with licensing and permitting regulations.

UberX on its website is now giving “fare” quotes for Kansas City, which would be charged after the period for free rides is over.

“We embrace tech. We embrace innovation,” Hernandez emphasized. “We just ask that they work within the existing rules or work with us to adjust the rules before entering into the market.”

Hernandez said UberX had been in negotiations with the city over its regulations before Lyft abrupty entered the Kansas City market. He said city regulators believe both companies need to meet a few simple requirements to come into compliance with city code.

Bill George, chief executive of Kansas City Transportation Group, which operates the Yellow Cab taxi service, said either everyone needs to be licensed or nobody does.

“We’re fine either way,” he said.

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