ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state Public Regulation Commission unanimously rejected a motion on Wednesday by ride-sharing service Lyft for a stay on the commission’s pending cease and desist order against the company, but commissioners approved a hearing on Lyft claims that the PRC lacks jurisdiction.
The hearing on whether the New Mexico Motor Carrier Act cover ride sharing will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 6, following the PRC’s regular open meeting.
The commission also met in closed session Wednesday morning to discuss pending litigation against Lyft for defying the PRC’s cease and desist order, which it issued in May. The company continues to face potential fines of up $10,000 for each rule in the Motor Carrier Act that it determines Lyft has violated – and for every day it continues to do so.
“We believe they’re still operating, and we have an ongoing investigation,” PRC Transportation Director Ryan Jerman told the Journal. “The PRC met in closed session to review pending litigation. We don’t know what they discussed yet, but they could have voted to take action in court.”
The commission ordered Lyft in May to cease operations in Albuquerque, where the company launched its mobile device-based service last April. Unlike traditional taxi businesses, Lyft and Uber – which also launched local operations in April – use smart-phone programs to connect people seeking rides with people who have cars.
Both companies say current laws don’t apply to them because they don’t operate commercial taxi businesses. They own no vehicles, employ no drivers, nor transport passengers, fundamentally distinguishing them from “motor carriers,” they say.
The PRC has not issued a cease and desist order against Uber, but it did reject in June that company’s application for a temporary operating permit.
Lyft requested on Monday that the commission freeze the order to cease operations and allow it to present arguments against regulation under the Motor Carrier Act. The company will get its first day in court at next week’s hearing.
“Throughout these challenges we remain committed to standing strong with the Lyft community and working with the PRC to find a solution that preserves a future for ride-sharing in New Mexico,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson told the Journal after the PRC meeting Wednesday.
Lyft’s Aug. 6 hearing will be separate from a rule-making process that the PRC approved in early July to create a new classification and framework for transportation networking operations. The commission voted Wednesday to immediately open that process with written comments now from the public and an open public hearing on Oct. 1.
“The goal is to create a new classification for transportation networking companies, but make clear safety and financial responsibility rules apply to TNCs the same way they apply to every other motor carrier,” Jerman said.