Rapid City officials welcome prospect of Lyft services

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Nationwide, ride-hailing programs like Lyft and Uber have given consumers alternatives to taxis.

South Dakota law has previously prohibited the program because the companies did not have a sales tax license in the state. Recently, the state passed legislation approving out-of-state revenue for the service. And Monday, Lyft - based out of San Francisco - was approved a license, with drivers now being recruited in Sioux Falls.

"The state supreme court last month made a ruling that the ride-sharing services, out-of-state companies, cannot be forced to collect and remit in-state sales tax,” said Rapid City Communications Director Darrell Shoemaker.

Other city officials are supportive of the program coming to Rapid City, especially with DUI numbers up from previous years. Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris feels the current system just isn't cutting it.

"There are many advantages from a traffic safety standpoint,” said Jegeris. “But the greatest advantage is that there is evidence out there that this would significantly reduce DUI’s. Here in Rapid City, we are on track to revive over 1,000 DUI arrests this year. So there is more work to be done, and I believe that the next biggest reduction in DUI behavior will occur once we get a ride-share - once we have ride-share services available here in Rapid City.

"The volume of patrons that are seeking a ride is very high for a very short window of time,” he continued. “And traditional transportation services just don't serve that population to that degree that that population demands it to be served."

In August, Lyft reported being fully operational in 40 states and having drivers in every state except South Dakota and Arkansas.

Afton Klode, a Rapid City resident, hopes the service can be utilized locally.

"I think that would be great,” said Klode. “I think it's very needed, especially on the weekends, getting people home. We use it a lot when we visit big cities, and it's always the best instead of getting taxis or anything like that."

Lyft has agreed to be taxed as a ride-hailing service, like taxis, but it's up to Rapid City to make a few changes before residents can expect to see the company in town.

"The mayor and city officials will be reaching out to Sioux Falls officials, kind of to see what they did on the local end that we might be able to look at adopting, or taking over for Rapid City, as well to tweak our own ordinances or to come up with a new ordinance that would pave the way for ride-sharing services,” said Shoemaker. 

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology student Ryan Newman also hopes the service will come to Rapid City.

"Having that ease of mind knowing you have that option would make a big difference for a lot of students,” said Newman. “Knowing they could just call a safe driver any time, they feel more free to go out and have fun."

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