Uber, Lyft now able to operate in Virginia

The Governor and Attorney General have issued a temporary agreement allowing the companies to serve Virginians.

Update #3 — August 6, 2014; 1:03 PM

Uber has blogged about today’s announcement (see below), saying Uber drivers are indeed coming to Richmond. The blog post also mentioned that the availability of drivers may be limited at first, as the Richmond market is still in a test phase.

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Update #2 — August 6, 2014; 12:11 PM

Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring announced today that Virginia will allow Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies to operate in the Commonwealth effective immediately.

In June, the Virginia DMV sent cease and desist letters to both companies prohibiting their operation within the state (see below)

“In order for Virginia to remain economically competitive, it is important that we welcome innovative companies like Uber and Lyft and provide them with the resources they need to safely and effectively operate in the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe in a statement.

The DMV has made Uber and Lyft’s temporary operation contingent upon specific terms that, if violated, can result in the revocation of the temporary operating authority.

Among those terms:

  • Extensive driver background checks
  • Rigorous insurance requirements, including $1 million coverage the moment a driver accepts a trip request.
  • Features to help customers identify their driver and vehicle
  • Rate transparency

The DMV is conducting a study to inform the General Assembly of a long-term legislative solution to the services provided by Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies. That study should be completed by the 2015 legislative session.

Below is the full release from today’s announcement.

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Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that the Commonwealth of Virginia has reached an agreement with transportation network companies Uber and Lyft that will help ensure the safety of passengers, bring the companies into compliance with Virginia law, provide transparency into their operations, and promote a level playing field for transportation providers. This temporary legal framework, one of the first of its kind in the nation, is the result of extensive discussions between the companies, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the McAuliffe administration, and Attorney General Herring’s office following the issuance of “cease and desist” letters to the companies on June 5.

“In order for Virginia to remain economically competitive, it is important that we welcome innovative companies like Uber and Lyft and provide them with the resources they need to safely and effectively operate in the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Technology – specifically related to smart phones – continues to advance at a rapid pace, and I am pleased that we were able to work together to find a swift solution that will provide Virginia’s workers, students, and families with more transportation options.”

“I knew there had to be a better way to ensure the safety of Virginia passengers,” said Attorney General Herring. “These companies offer services that Virginians want, but it just wasn’t acceptable for them to operate without complying with regulations or other measures to help ensure the safety of passengers and motorists. I’m proud that we were able to get folks back to the table and get them talking again, and now we’ve shown that Virginia can be responsive to innovative businesses while promoting public safety and the rule of law. Because of this cooperation, Virginians are going to have more transportation options that are safer, more transparent, and appropriately regulated. I hope other states will look to Virginia as a model for how to safely integrate the so-called sharing economy.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring for putting consumers first and embracing innovation, choice and opportunity,” said Justin Kintz, public policy, Uber Technologies, Inc. “We look forward to continuing to work together to create a permanent home for ridesharing, providing residents and visitors with safe, reliable transportation options.”

“Today’s agreement allows Lyft to continue providing safe rides and economic opportunity to Virginians as we work with state leaders to secure a permanent future for ridesharing, said Dave Estrada, VP of Government Relations for Lyft. “Virginia has led the way in embracing innovative industries and we applaud Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring for their thoughtful work to reach an agreement that maintains the highest level of public safety while expanding consumer choice. In addition to our involvement in DMV’s ongoing study on Transportation Network Companies, we look forward to helping craft new rules for peer-to-peer transportation that increase access to safe, affordable and convenient rides for all Virginia residents.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles has informed Uber and Lyft that their applications for transportation broker’s licenses and temporary operating authority have been granted, effective immediately, they meet an extensive set of regulations to promote passenger safety, have appropriate insurance, and comply with Virginia law. If at any point either company fails to comply with these terms, DMV can revoke the temporary operating authority.

These conditions include:

  • Extensive background checks of drivers, with immediate disqualifiers including convictions for any felony, fraud, sexual offenses, or violent crimes, or registration as a sex offender.
  • A review of driving history, with disqualification for drivers convicted of three or more moving violations in the last three years, DUI, underage drinking, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, hit and run, or eluding law-enforcement, or a revocation of a driver’s license.
  • Zero tolerance for the use of drugs or alcohol by any drivers, and a suspension pending investigation of any driver accused of violating the zero tolerance policy.
  • Only employing drivers who are properly licensed and over 21, and vehicles that carry a maximum of seven passengers and are properly registered and inspected for safety and emissions, where applicable.
  • Rigorous insurance requirements, including requiring drivers to maintain automobile liability insurance, maintaining on behalf of all drivers an additional $1,000,000 of coverage from the moment a driver accepts a trip request until the passenger leaves the vehicle, and liability insurance for drivers who are logged onto the companies’ software but not providing services.
  • Maintaining documentation for each driver of his or her background check, sex offender registry check, driving record, proof of insurance, valid driver’s license, Social Security number, vehicle registration, and proof of vehicle safety inspection. Documentation must be available to DMV on demand to investigate any complaints, and must be available for periodic audits to ensure compliance.
  • Paying any previously assessed civil penalties for non-compliance and dropping any appeals, which both companies have already done.
  • Features to help customers identify their driver and vehicle, including from the outside of the vehicle.
  • Drivers notifying the companies of any change in their license status, vehicle registration, insurance, or any arrest for a crime that would disqualify them from being a driver.
  • Rate transparency and documentation.
  • Companies advising drivers of their need to comply with applicable tax laws.
  • Only accepting rides booked through the companies’ mobile device apps, not street hails.
  • Companies maintaining a Virginia transportation broker’s license.

Virginia DMV is currently leading a study at the request of the General Assembly to developing a long-term legislative solution that addresses services provided by Uber, Lyft, and similar companies, while also ensuring a level playing field for taxicabs and all other passenger transportation services. The study is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2015 legislative session. This temporary authority agreement can serve as a foundation for potential legislation and will also provide valuable data on the operations of these companies as legislation is crafted.

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Update #1 — June 9, 2014; 7:15 AM

Uber and Lyft, are not allowed to operate in Virginia, which the Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Richard Holcomb outlined in cease and desist (PDF) letters sent to both companies last Thursday.

Both Uber and Lyft, which provide would-be passengers a way to connect with nearby drivers through their respective mobile apps, have operated in Hampton Roads since spring, defying both DMV warnings and fines. Now the DMV has threatened civil penalties upwards of $1,000 per violation against individual drivers to thwart the services.

The DMV argues that Uber and Lyft need For-Hire Instrastate Operating Authority (i.e. special licensing and registration) to operate in Virginia. And while there are certain “for-hire passenger carrier” arrangements excluded from requiring operating authority,1 Holcomb said that neither Uber nor Lyft qualify.

Uber released a statement on Friday to its Virginia customers in response to the DMV’s announcement, saying that it will continue to operate:

You may have heard that Uber received a cease and desist letter from the Virginia DMV yesterday. We wanted to write to let you know that Uber will operate as usual, and we plan to continue full-speed ahead with our commitment to providing Virginians access to safe, affordable and reliable rides. We are surprised and disappointed by the DMV’s actions, given that Uber has been working with the Virginia government for months to modernize regulations that will put consumer safety first. Virginia should be standing for innovation, consumer choice and job growth.

Uber touted that its uberX drivers–a less-expensive service option that the company had planned to use in Richmond on a trial basis (see below)–are insured up to $1 million, more than the $350,000 the DMV requires of for-hire drivers. The company also said its drivers must pass background checks, which the Virginia DMV does not require.

Sunni Blevins Brown, the DMV’s media liaison, confirmed that the department has been working with the two companies. In an email to RVANews, she said that, while optimistic the two companies will lawfully operate in Virginia one day, the DMV cannot currently provide them a dispensation:

Virginia DMV supports innovation. The agency has been in communications with UBER and Lyft for months to educate them on Virginia’s law with the goal of bringing them into compliance so that they can operate lawfully in Virginia. During this same period DMV has been charged by the General Assembly to conduct a study of these transportation network companies. We are confident that the solution to transportation network companies operations will come out of the study and we hope that UBER and Lyft will actively participate in the study and be a part of creating the solution. In the meantime, Virginia DMV must fulfill its obligation to highway safety and enforce the law as it is currently written.

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Original — May 22, 2014

Uber is at least considering expanding its service to Richmond.

A recent Facebook promotion from the company, which connects people in need of car service with a local driver, asks for drivers to participate in their lower-cost uberX program.

Uber message

Richmond is not currently listed as one of Uber’s operating cities. However, people may apply to be an Uber driver here in town.

When asked about the recent Facebook ad, Kaitlin Durkosh of Uber responded:

Ridesharing creates jobs, drives the local economy and is a safe and reliable transportation alternative – we often test ads to measure the viability of uberX in different markets. We are excited about the potential opportunity to connect riders and drivers in the Richmond area.

We’ll see…

  1. Such as ride-sharing arrangements. Under Virginia law, ride-sharing arrangements are defined as those not transporting passengers for profit. Under and Lyft clearly do
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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