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Lyft readies Philadelphia launch: Drivers trained, $1,500/week offered

The pink mustaches are coming to Philly.

Lyft, the Uber-competitor in the ridesharing service space that’s become famous nationwide for fastening the strange ‘staches on the front of their rides, is readying a Philadelphia launch, with Craigslist ads seeking drivers — who are, Billy Penn has learned, already training. A Lyft spokeswoman said Friday “we’d like for Lyft to be available in the city soon and are currently in the market research phase.” She didn’t provide a specific launch date. The company has launched a Lyft Philadelphia page.

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Lyft began advertising on Philadelphia Craigslist earlier this month that it’s seeking drivers, pledging that they can earn up to $1,500 per week while driving for the service.

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The ridesharing service’s Philly employees may operate out of coworking space City Coho at 2401 Walnut St. where Billy Penn spotted Lyft signage.

Lyft will join an already contentious ridesharing ecosystem here in Philly, where UberX and the city’s regulators don’t get along. While Pennsylvania has granted UberX a temporary experimental license to operate in the state, Philadelphia is the lone exception — the Philadelphia Parking Authority technically regulates taxi services within the city.

PPA spokesman Martin O’Rourke said when Lyft comes to Philly, they’ll be treated the same way Uber was — anyone who gets caught driving for Lyft will be slapped with a $1,000 fine.

“Should they proceed they will be considered an illegal, hack taxi service,” he said.

UberBlack, Uber’s upscale, limo-esque ridesharing service has been operating in Philadelphia since 2012 as it employs professional drivers with commercial licenses. But its cheaper, well-known service UberX which allows anyone with a certain type of car to apply to be a driver launched in October.

Instead of being met with open arms by the city, UberX was met with horses and riot gear. The PPA, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Police, carried out a sting operation in which they ordered UberX rides and then impounded the cars, fining each driver $1,000.

Uber said at the time that it was paying the fines for the drivers who had their vehicles impounded, and had no plans to stop operating in Philly despite threats from the PPA. PPA executive director Vince Fenerty contends that Uber is an “illegal hack cab service,” and has time and time again said they’ll continue impounding cars and fining drivers if they’re caught.

The issue with Uber and Lyft in Pennsylvania is that they’re not legal. But they’re not technically illegal, either. The state has failed to appoint a regulatory agency to oversee ridesharing services, and some have concerns about insurance policies behind the ridesharing.

And of course cab companies don’t want them here. They know ridesharing will cut into their already-diminishing business in the city, and 45 Philly cab companies got together and sued Uber in December.

In the aftermath of the actions taken by the PPA to impound Uber cars, some in the tech community expressed disappointment that Philadelphia wasn’t welcoming to the ridesharing service. First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, an Uber investor, blasted the sting operation, saying “Philadelphia’s PPA is failing.”

Meanwhile, a number of elected officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter, have expressed support of Uber and other ridesharing services.

This story was updated to include a comment from the PPA.

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