| MIAMI, June 9
MIAMI, June 9 Simon Teame Chierici, a driver
with the ride-sharing startup Lyft, slips behind the wheel of
his Chevy Cruze but decides not to display the company's
signature furry pink mustache on the front of his car.
The 50-year-old part-time Italian-language tutor and
financial adviser is among a group of Miami drivers who are
defying county officials and driving for the unlicensed service.
He is also undeterred by news police in Miami are running
sting operations to prevent Lyft drivers from offering rides.
"I'm not so worried," said Chierici, who said he earns about
$26 an hour driving passengers.
Miami-Dade County officials have refused to license drivers
for Lyft and Uber, a similar service, arguing the driver-owned
vehicles should comply with the same regulations as taxi
Lyft and Uber, however, argue they are different, describing
themselves as technology companies that provide mobile
applications connecting private drivers with passengers.
The service has been welcomed in some parts of the country,
but faced fierce criticism in others, led by taxi drivers and
Last week, Virginia issued cease-and-desist orders to
drivers who use the companies' services, while Colorado became
the first U.S. state to pass legislation regulating companies
that help the public hail rides from drivers via smartphone
Lyft and Uber launched in Miami last month despite the risk
of heavy fines and after an unsuccessful two-year lobbying
effort to persuade Miami lawmakers to change the regulations.
Since then, the county has impounded three cars and fined
eight drivers as much as $2,000, according to Raul Gonzalez, an
official with Miami-Dade County's regulatory and economic
Police in Miami have posed as riders and then issued fines
to the drivers.
Critics say Uber and Lyft drivers skirt the regulatory
system for taxi drivers and companies that requires large,
up-front fees, a lengthy certification process and regular
Taxi permits, called medallions, fetch hundreds of thousands
of dollars apiece at auctions in Miami.
"People mortgage their homes to buy these and suddenly you
go and pull the blanket out from them," said Diego Feliciano,
president of the South Florida Taxi Cab Association.
Rachel Holt, an Uber general manager, argued many drivers
who use the company's service do not plan on making it a
"These may be folks who want a part-time thing to make a
little bit of money or who may be in between jobs," she said.
Lyft and Uber have caught the attention investors. Uber said
last week it had raised $1.2 billion in a funding round that
valued the service at more than $18 billion.
Lyft raised $250 million from investors in early April.
Chierici said he is risking a hefty fine because he has
found a job he enjoys.
"It's freedom," he said. "It's having your own office
wherever you go in the city without having anyone on top of
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Mohammad Zargham)