The PJ Tatler

Virginia DMV Orders Uber and Lyft Ride Sharing to Cease and Desist

lyft

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease and desist letters on Thursday to two companies it says are operating illegal “compensated transportation services” in the state. In the letters sent to Uber and Lyft, DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb warned that in addition to the penalties previously assessed against the two companies for violating Virginia law, the DMV will begin enforcing penalties against individual drivers who participate in ride arrangements through Lyft and Uber. See the letters here and here.

The two companies provide apps through which individuals make ride-sharing arrangements that involve “transporting passengers for profit,” according to the DMV. Uber and Lyft have argued that they are not operating a ride-sharing business; they are merely providing a platform that enables individuals to facilitate private ride arrangements. Nevertheless, DMV Commissioner Holcomb said that the DMV is “once again making clear” that Uber and Lyft must stop operating in Virginia until they get the proper authority.

Holcomb “strongly” suggested the companies focus their resources on participating in a state study of the new transportation business models “rather than continue illegal operations in the meantime.”

On Thursday night the Arlington County Police Department said it plans to assist in enforcement, effective immediately.

“We will enforce it, but it will not be a primary focus of our operations,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “We are going to take a soft approach, but we will not turn a blind eye.”

Matthew Hurtt, Chairman of the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans, responded to the news that the DMV is targeting Lyft and Uber saying, “The DMV’s decision to crack down on Lyft and Uber is reprehensible. During his campaign, Governor McAuliffe emphasized the importance of efficient government and transportation in making the Commonwealth the best place for business.” Hurtt added, “Punishing competitive and popular businesses with regulations in favor of unionized taxi monopolies reveals the governor’s true priorities — supporting his political friends, and letting Virginians suffer the consequences.”

Jon Liss, Executive Director of Tenants and Workers United applauded the DMV’s action and said the Arlington County Board should do more to protect cab drivers. “It is time for Arlington to get in sync with the state DMV and enforce one set of rules for all taxi-like services,” he said. “Drivers in Arlington deserve ‘dispute resolution’ protections and fair and enforced regulations.”

Lyft, known it’s pink moustache-emblazoned vehicles, has vowed to defy the DMV. A Lyft spokesman said, “We’ve reviewed state transportation codes and believe we are following the applicable rules. We’ll continue normal operations as we work to make policy progress.”

It is unclear whether Uber will continue to operate in Virginia while the cease and desist order is in effect. The company said in a statement posted at DCist that “The DMV decision today hurts thousands of small business entrepreneurs who rely on the Uber platform to make a living, create new jobs and contribute to the economy – and it hurts the countless residents who rely on Uber to connect them with affordable, safe and reliable transportation alternatives. We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ridesharing in the Commonwealth.”

 

UPDATE from Uber via Twitter:

We’re puzzled by @VirginiaDMV‘s stance against ride-sharing. We’ll be on the road today as always w/ the same reliable service you love.