Virginia Reiterates: Uber and Lyft Are Illegal, And Need to Provide Services Less and Lobby Government More


As my post yesterday about how Lyft drivers were being cited and having cars impounded in Austin, Texas, made clear, in the uncertain, shifting, and highly varied legal and regulatory environment across the nation for "e-hailing" apps like Uber and Lyft, the companies have a tendency at times to operate first, and see what cities try to do to stop them later. (Which in many cases is to try to fine, ban, limit, or otherwise harass them.)

So far only California has been sensible enough to carve out a manageable, not terribly restrictive, statewide space for such services to operate legally, as I discussed in this October article.

Spiros Vathis / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Today the state of Virginia loudly and firmly reiterated that this superhelpful, wonderful, makes-life-easier-for-nearly everyone, technical innovation in rides-for-hire is not permitted, and thus prohibited, in that state. There is nothing so helpful to the public that our public defenders won't try to destroy it.

At the Virginian-Pilot website, the bad news:

Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease and desist orders today to Lyft and Uber, telling the two ride services that they must stop operating in violation of state law or face fines against their part-time drivers.

The DMV had already issued civil penalties against the companies in April—$26,000 for Uber and $9,000 for Lyft—for trips that their drivers provided in Virginia despite warnings by the state agency that Virginia law does not allow their business model….

The DMV is studying Virginia's motor carrier laws with an eye toward legislative changes next year that could allow Lyft and Uber to legally operate in the state. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said last week that he liked the companies' business models, but until the law is changed, they are violating it.

Instead of defying the law, Virginia's DMV chief Richard Holcomb "wrote that he 'strongly' suggested the companies focus their resources on participating in the state study 'rather than continue illegal operations in the meantime..' "

In other words: don't spend your time and resources providing fabulous services to willing drivers and passengers and giving people paying work and making better use of existing vehicles and resources, companies: spend your time and resources lobbying state government! That will make the world a better place.

The cease and desist letters to Lyft and to Uber.