VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has fined two ride-sharing companies that are expected to start business this month in Hampton Roads.
The companies, called Lyft and Uber, provide rides through an app on a smartphone, which charges the passenger’s stored account. Drivers use their own vehicles for the service, which is already in use in cities across the country.
According to letters obtained from the DMV, Lyft received a $9,000 civil penalty and Uber faced a $26,000 fine for rides provided in Northern Virginia earlier this year. The letters said the companies failed to meet broker’s license requirements. The DMV said it had been communicating with the companies about the violations for several months.
Lyft spokesperson Paige Thelen provided this statement about the penalty:
The current regulations surrounding taxis and limos were created before something like Lyft was even imagined. Lyft’s peer-to-peer business model does not easily fit into the current framework, but we have made safety a top priority from the beginning by putting forth strict safety measures that go beyond what is required for existing transportation providers.
Zuhairah Washington, a spokesperson for Uber, said some laws on the books did not apply to the company, which was working with the state to help develop a regulatory framework that fits. She said she did not believe Uber could be considered a for-hire company.
Lynne Johnston, owner of All City Cab Company, said she doesn’t think the ride-sharing companies create a level playing field for taxi drivers.
“Frankly, it’s kind of like having them ride in like bandits and swoop down and take the income from hundreds and hundreds of people in the city,” she said.
Johnston questioned whether the companies are safe enough for the general public: “I have concerns about anyone and everyone jumping behind the wheel when picking up impaired, intoxicated young women and young military with no guidelines as to how safe they are.”
She thinks Virginia Beach City Council should create an ordinance regulating the companies.
Lyft and Uber representatives said their drivers undergo background checks, vehicle inspections, and have liability insurance.
Chilita Galloway, a Virginia Beach mom and a driver for Lyft, said she thinks the ride-sharing services are safe for everyone.
“I don’t think moms should have anything to worry about at all, not at all,” she said. “With every passenger that comes in my car, they’re a friend to me.”