The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Valdez Star 

Need a Lyft? Network ride sharing service is now a transportation option

Some controversy surrounds ride networking services and how they are regulated


Steven Weber photo

Kerra Apolo is bringing Lyft to Valdez – expanding social network ridesharing.

A major ridesharing service is coming to town.

Valdez woman Kerra Apolo, who also works as an Advocate for Victims of Violence, just started driving for Lyft this week. Apolo states that her reason for getting involved with driving for Lyft is "to give people another option."

Authorization for ride networking services such as Lyft and Uber to operate across Alaska - including Valdez - officially occurred on June 16, 2017 when Gov. Bill Walker signed the Let's Ride Alaska Act into law.

The large number of DUI arrests - sometimes triple or even quadruple the legal limit - created new interest in adding Lyft - a service one would normally expect to see in a much more populated area.

Statistics on drunk driving accidents and arrests for driving while intoxicated has been shown to decrease in some areas after adding ride networking services. For other areas, it has been shown to have little impact according to an analysis published by the New York Times.

Time will tell what will come about of this new addition to Valdez and Apolo asks, "why not give it a try and see if we can decrease drunk driving with it?"

However, the short and long term impact on the local yellow cab company is important to take into account with the addition of the option to use Lyft. Sue Ellen Montes, who drives for Yellow Cab and recently ran for City Council, said that by adding Lyft, "Yellow Cab will immediately start cutting the number of calls that keep the cab company able to operate. The cab has many expenses that have to be met in order to remain soluble."

According to Montes, the worst outcome would be that Yellow Cab ceases to operate and only ride networking services become available. Montes further added, "If there is no cab company because of lack of income, Lyft will not be able to fulfill any sort of responsibility to the community in the form of full time drivers who are available 24/7," she said.

One of the draws to driving for Lyft is that drivers can set their own schedule and log in using the app as they wish. Because of this, sometimes there are Lyft drivers available and sometimes there are not. In larger cities, one can almost always get a ride any time of the day or night but customers do end up paying more during surge periods which is based on the supply of the drivers and the demand of the passengers.

Controversy surrounds ride networking services and how they are regulated.

Allie Ferko, the Public Information Officer for Valdez, quoted state statute: The authority to regulate transportation network companies and transportation network drivers is reserved to the State, and except as specifically provided by statute, a municipality may not enact or enforce an ordinance regulating transportation network companies or transportation network.

This means that all regulation of ride networking services in Alaska is done through the State and there is no local control.

Apolo stated that in order for her to drive she had to first have a vehicle that had four doors, could hold at least five people and was a 2006 or newer model.

"I had to do an online application, submit a copy of my driver's license, registration, insurance and complete a background check," she said. "It took about a week and a half to get approved and then another week to get the necessary emblems."

Apolo said a vehicle inspection was also required "to make sure the vehicle can operate at a really good standard."

Yellow Cab is regulated through the City of Valdez in addition to the State of Alaska. This poses additional regulations.

"Yellow Cab is required to have drivers with a chauffeur license, a current background check, physicals, and drivers have to carry special insurance while the cab company has to carry commercial insurance," Montes said. "If Lyft is not required to be regulated the same as taxis, the solution seems to be to deregulate the cab company. That would mean that the drivers would pay less and possibly be able to continue to operate," and added "This is the only way the cab company could survive while competing with Lyft."

For those interested in driving for Lyft or another ride networking company such as Uber, Apolo recommends that drivers do their research first. More than one Lyft driver is necessary to make it a viable service.

"Ultimately it comes down to, how do we create more options for passengers when our cab company is unable to meet the need at the moment, especially when multiple passengers are trying to leave at the same time," Apolo said.

The price to use Lyft will be $2.25 for the initial cost, $2.25 for the service fee, $1.50 per mile and $0.25 per minute. There will also be a $5 cancellation fee for rides cancelled more than five minutes after the request is made. Apolo plans to drive from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday and 6:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Her schedule and updates will be available on Valdez Lyft Facebook page.


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