Lyft offers rides in Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Lawrence

Ride-hailing service Lyft announced it was bringing its service to Wyandotte and Johnson counties on Thursday.
Ride-hailing service Lyft announced it was bringing its service to Wyandotte and Johnson counties on Thursday. submitted photo

Ride-hailing service Lyft on Thursday began service in Johnson and Wyandotte counties and Lawrence.

The service still does not operate in Kansas City. It pulled out of the Missouri city in April 2015 after objecting to terms negotiated by competitor Uber and the City Council.

But the firm — like Uber, it uses a mobile app to connect freelancing drivers with riders — will operate in areas on the Kansas side of the state line.

“We think residents of Kansas City and Lawrence will also embrace Lyft for its welcoming, affordable rides,” the company said in a news release.

The company said users who use the code “KCLOVE” will get a $5 discount on their first ride in Lyft’s new service area.

Uber is available in Missouri and Kansas.

Unlike traditional taxi services, drivers for ride-hailing services use their own cars. That’s created a regulatory quandary for cities and states, which have been lobbied heavily by cab companies to call for tighter rules on who can be a driver-for-hire.

Kansas passed a law, over Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto, in 2015 that set requirements for background checks and broader insurance coverage for drivers. The measure was opposed by Uber and Lyft, and the companies pulled out of the state. The Legislature quickly passed, and Brownback signed, a compromise measure that same year. That redo of regulations required the ride-hailing services to tell drivers they need to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if their car is under a lien. The rules also barred the hiring of drivers convicted of various crimes, including identity theft, driving under the influence and sexual assault.

But the changed rules eliminated a demand that drivers undergo background checks by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Instead, the law requires companies to do their own background checks and makes them liable to civil suits for hiring ineligible drivers.

That was enough to bring Uber back to Kansas. But Lyft stayed out — until its announcement Thursday.

Lyft came to Kansas City, Mo., in 2014 but then pulled out when negotiations with the City Council led to increased requirements for background checks and insurance. Those requirements were pushed to increase rider safety but also came in response to taxi companies threatened by the new “gig economy” business model.

At the time, Lyft issued a statement saying that “the revised regulations still place unnecessarily burdensome requirements on individual drivers.” It did not elaborate on what rules were overly cumbersome. But Lyft’s statement at the time said, “These rules make it nearly impossible for peer-to-peer transportation to thrive.”

By the time it pulled out of Kansas City, it had been entangled in a lawsuit with the city over its regulations and stopped its service in late 2014. Uber remained.

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon