Rideshare Lyft returns to Tacoma

After an almost two-year hiatus, the ridesharing company Lyft is back in Tacoma.

Lyft riders now can use the app to order rides in the city again, the company said in a news release Monday.

Lyft was the first app-based ridesharing company to serve Tacoma, but pulled out in December 2014 after the Tacoma City Council voted to approve regulations that brought it and Uber under the same rules that oversee taxi cabs. That included a $15,000 licensing fee paid to the city by each company for app-based rideshare services.

Those regulations required drivers to pass a city-sanctioned training program, including a defensive driving course, professional conduct and communication skills. It also forced drivers to buy a $25 annual city business license or $90 if the driver earns more than $12,000 per year.

“The City Council passed regulations that would have required duplicative individual licenses within the same coverage area, a burden for drivers who service the greater Seattle area,” a spokeswoman told the News Tribune at the time. In the meantime, Lyft would continue to serve the Puget Sound region, including dropping off passengers in Tacoma, the spokeswoman said, but no longer picking them up.

Tacoma tax and license manager Danielle Larson said Uber was the only app-based ridesharing company licensed in the city prior to Lyft’s return, Larson said. There are currently 2,088 transportation network company drivers in Tacoma, Larson said, up from 2,018 on Aug. 12 and increased from about 1,200 in late February.

In March, the City Council voted to streamline the regulations. It established a new annual license fee for Transportation Network Companies to cover growing administrative and regulatory costs, and agreed to no longer issue for-hire driver ID cards and vehicle endorsements to drivers affiliated with a transportation network, as long as all licensing requirements are met.

The company said the passing of those new regulations paved the way for their return to Tacoma.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland said she was pleased Lyft was returning to Tacoma.

“I’m glad they’re here,” Strickland said. “I think competition is a good thing and it makes everyone up their game.”

To celebrate the re-launch, new passengers will be able to use the code “LYFTINTAC” to get $5 off their first ride within the Tacoma coverage area, according to the release.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud