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Business/Economy

Lyft is on its way to Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: June 15, 2017
  • Published June 15, 2017

Update 9:45 a.m. Thursday:

Gov. Bill Walker will sign the ride-hailing legislation Thursday afternoon, press secretary Jonathon Taylor said in an email Thursday morning. Walker is expected to sign House Bill 132 at 1 p.m.

Original story:

Fast-growing ride-hailing company Lyft says it is ready, at any moment, to launch in Alaska.

Lyft communications manager Scott Coriell said Wednesday that the company will start operations in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau "as soon as the governor signs the bill."

Alternatives to traditional taxis, Lyft and its main rival, Uber, allow people to hail rides using smartphone apps and also pay automatically through the app.

A smartphone app for Lyft drivers. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Last month, the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 132, which allows for such companies to operate in Alaska. Grace Jang, communications director for Gov. Bill Walker's office, said in an email Tuesday that the legislation must be reviewed by the Department of Law before it reaches Walker's desk.

At the end of May, she said it would be "premature" before that legal review to say whether Walker will sign the bill.

Toward the end of Alaska's regular legislative session, when the bill "looked like it was going in a positive direction," Coriell said, Lyft began to recruit drivers. He wouldn't say how many Alaska drivers the company has signed up.

San Francisco-based Lyft has expanded rapidly this year, from 200 U.S. cities at the start of 2017 to 350 now, Coriell said. Alaska is one of the last states without ride-hailing companies.

Uber did enter the Alaska market in 2014 but left after settling a dispute with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development over unpaid workers' compensation insurance for drivers.

That dispute stemmed from Uber's classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. In March, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lyft settled a California class-action lawsuit — brought by Lyft drivers — for $27 million over how it classifies drivers.

When asked whether the timing of Lyft's news about its Alaska debut had anything to do with recent reports of problems at rival Uber — that company's CEO, Travis Kalanick, is taking a leave of absence as the firm continues an "attempt to repair its reputation over a series of scandals," The New York Times reported Tuesday — Coriell said no.

“It’s totally separate,” he said. “We’re focused on what we do as a company and we’re excited to launch in Alaska. We’ve been working on this for a number of months and are hopeful that the governor will sign the bill.”

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