Car Service Apps
5:41 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Uber-Like Car Service Looking To Make Entry Into St. Louis Market

UPDATE: Feb 25, 11 a.m.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission approved Carmel's application for the dispatch license. Seven members of the commission voted in favor of the license and one abstained.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A car service that dispatches its vehicles using a smartphone app could start operating in St. Louis as soon as this week.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission is set to vote tomorrow on Carmel Car and Limousine's request to begin selling its dispatch application in St. Louis.

Carmel was the first company to apply for the commission's new dispatch license, a new category of license that was established specifically to regulate companies like Carmel, Uber and Lyft. These companies use a different dispatching system than traditional taxi cab companies. Customers can request a car using the company's app from any location and then track the car's location. Carmel, which is based in New York, is already using the app in seven U.S. cities, including Nashville and Washington, D.C.

The commission's executive director, Ron Klein, says if the license is approved, Carmel will hire drivers from a pool of 1,300 who have already been vetted by the commission. That process includes a background check, a drug test and an extensive driving record review.

"We’ve seen it across the country where there’s been some questionable background checks that have been conducted by some of the other applications companies, and so we want to proceed slowly here, and we want to make sure that the public is protected," Klein said. "That's our main goal."

He says his enforcement staff will be checking to make sure that Carmel does not try to hire drivers from outside of the pool.

A similar car-for-hire company, Lyft, has begun advertising for drivers in the St. Louis area. A Lyft spokeswoman says it’s a test of the market and there are no current plans to operate in St. Louis.

A spokeswoman for Uber says demand is high for their service in St. Louis. However, any plans to expand in the region have been halted by local regulations, especially the requirement that rides must be booked an hour in advance. She did not comment specifically about what efforts Uber  made to get the regulations changed. Missouri Ethics Commission records show the company has hired a lobbyist to work in Kansas City.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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