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Omaha Chamber Steps Into Lyft, Uber Controversy

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Photo: Video by kmtv.com

Omaha Chamber Steps Into Lyft, Uber Controversy

By Kelly Bartnick. CREATED Apr 30, 2014

OMAHA, NE – The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce is throwing support behind ride sharing services Lyft and Uber. Both companies are forging ahead with plans to expand into Nebraska despite a stern warning from state public service commissioners. 

 

Lyft launched its service in Omaha and Lincoln last week, offering free rides for two weeks. State officials have said they would ticket and tow drivers charging for the taxi-like service, famous for the pink mustaches drivers put on the front of their vehicles, because the company is not adhering to the Nebraska statute. 

Lyft maintained it is providing an innovative service that is not defined within the boundaries of state regulations. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Brown said he wanted to work with regulators to come up with a solution to allow the services to move in. 

“I understand they have a job to do. They're supposed to protect the citizens of the state. So, we're going to try and work within their regulations and their guidelines, but still make this more welcoming for Lyft and Uber,” Brown said. “We work in this kind of venue every day. We try and work and figure out how to solve these kinds of problems so that we can continue having more development, we can continue having a perception that we're an outgoing community.” 

His letter called the service innovative and necessary to meet changing needs as the city expands. Ryan Kingkade lives near Benson, and he took a Lyft after the service launched last week. Kingkade said Wednesday night he’s a fan. 

“I downloaded the app, requested a Lyft, and within eight minutes they were in front of my friend's house,” Kingkade said. “In the app it shows you the person's picture, it shows you there name. It shows you their license plate number. We read online all the stuff you have to go through to become one of these drivers.” 

The pushback for ride sharing services Lyft and its main competitor, Uber, has been consistent across the Midwest. Minneapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago had controversial launches, citing insurance and safety concerns. In some cities, others have documented instances where drivers got around background checks. 

Before Lyft’s launch Omaha Public Service Commissioner Anne Boyle said the state was doing its part, enforcing the laws to protect Nebraskans. 

“They have to comply with the law or at least come in and help us so that we can make them legal,” said Boyle. 

Brown said The Chamber would meet with Commissioner Boyle next week to discuss the issue.

A spokesperson for Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s office said previously that the city was looking into the ride sharing services, educating the companies about the local laws, and prepared to enforce any violations.