Lyft joins Uber as Montana’s second app-based transportation service

Look out Uber, Lyft is in.

The Montana Public Service Commission on Thursday agreed to allow the ride-share company Lyft to begin operating in Montana, where it will join Uber as the state’s second authorized Technology Network Carrier, or TNC.

The panel of Republican commissioners voted 4-1 to approve Lyft’s license, with the commissioner representing Missoula casting the lone dissenting vote.

“In the past, existing operators held what amounted to a competitor’s veto over newcomers,” said Commissioner Travis Kavulla of Great Falls. “That is no longer the case, and today any firm can compete, so long as they can demonstrate that they are a ‘fit’ operator.”

The PSC granted a similar license to Uber in 2015 after changes to state law paved the way for app-based, ride-sharing companies to operate in Montana as they do in most other states.

During the 20-day protest period last spring, the PSC received a single objection to Lyft’s application, that coming from the owner of a traditional taxi service in Livingston.

Chris Puyear, communications director for the PSC, said companies like Uber and Lyft are required to carry minimum insurance coverage of $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, plus $25,000 for property damage.

When a driver is engaged in a ride, the requirements go up to $1 million for death, injury or property damage, as well as uninsured motorist coverage.

“The Commission is satisfied that Lyft has met all of the statutory requirements established by the Legislature and is a fit, willing and able operator,” said PSC chairman Brad Johnson.

Last month, the Missoula International Airport was working to close an agreement with both Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at the facility.

While nearly the entire country has acknowledged the future in allowing ride-share companies to operate, Commissioner Bob Lake of Hamilton voted against it. Lake also represents Missoula.

In casting his dissenting vote, Lake said technology would put “mom-and-pop” operators out of business.

“Unlike existing regulated motor carriers, out-of-state corporations like Uber and Lyft operate with very little oversight from the PSC, and they are not obligated to serve the public,” Lake said. “I’m concerned that if these firms are allowed to squeeze out mom-and-pop taxi companies, critical portions of our population could be left without essential transportation services.”

Lyft’s license enables the company to begin operating right away.