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PRC seeks injunction to stop Lyft

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lyftNew Mexico Public Regulation Commission attorneys were in the process of filing for a restraining order and injunction in Santa Fe District Court late Friday to force the ride-sharing service Lyft Inc. to cease operations.

On Wednesday, the PRC ordered the company — a mobile device-based service that connects people seeking rides with people who have cars — to immediately cease and desist at least until June 2, when the company must respond to commission allegations that it is operating illegally as a taxi service.

But on Thursday, Lyft stated publicly that although it plans to work with the PRC to resolve regulatory concerns, it intends to continue operating because it does not believe it is violating any New Mexico laws.

“They’re simply refusing to comply, and we have to do something,” Commissioner Valerie Espinoza told the Journal. “They’ve been handed a cease-and-desist order, and anyone who refuses to abide by the rules is in complete violation of our laws. It’s a very disrespectful way to do business in New Mexico.”

PRC General Counsel Rick Blumenthal said staff was preparing a restraining order and injunction to be filed sometime late Friday, but it was not clear when. Staff planned to send copies by certified mail to attorneys in New Mexico representing Lyft.

Espinoza said it was urgent to act immediately given the expected increase in traffic during Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s a public safety issue,” she said. “I’m concerned about the safety and welfare of our residents.”

Meanwhile, Lyft did file for a temporary operating permit Thursday, but the PRC rejected the application because the company has not applied for a permanent certificate. That’s a statutory requirement in the Motor Carrier Act, said PRC Transportation Division Director Ryan Jerman.

In its application, Lyft stated that it is a peer-to-peer transportation platform that owns no vehicles, employs no drivers, nor transports passengers and therefore is not a “motor carrier.”

Lyft said it is willing to discuss an interim operating agreement pending adoption of rules or laws that recognize the unique nature of its services, but it will not seek a permanent operating certificate.

That automatically invalidated the application, Jerman said.

“By statute, any motor carrier can only get a temporary authority if it applies for permanent authority,” he said. “Staff won’t even accept one application without the other because it’s a matter of law.”

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