Lyft drivers operate on donations as city considers regulations

Riders reach drivers through smartphone app

SAN ANTONIO – While the city tries to figure out how to regulate ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, drivers are providing rides on a donation basis. 

Founding Lyft San Antonio driver Janet Free said she loves her customers. 

"It's a very fun job. I don't actually consider it a job," said Free.

Free said she knows most of her riders pretty well and prides herself on knowing where they need to go or where they worship.

Operating in the Alamo City since March, Free said business is good, especially around college campuses like the University of Texas San Antonio, where foreign students sometimes don't have vehicles. 

But cab and limo industry officials claim these services allow drivers to skirt expensive regulations and pose a threat to public safety.  

Free said they're self-regulated. 

"When we get hired our DMV record is checked, our background is checked to 10 years past, and our vehicle is inspected," said Free.

It's pretty easy to find a Lyft driver. You just log onto the app, request a ride and whatever driver happens to be closest picks up the rider.

Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles.

Because they're not licensed by the city, they can't charge a fare, but they do take donations from their passengers.

Free said Lyft is about 20 percent cheaper than using a cab service. While she understands pushback from cab companies, she said Lyft drivers are just trying to make a little money and give people other options.

"We're all in it to earn a living salary," said Free.

Recommendations will be presented to council next week. They'll have final say on any proposed ordinances.