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Deal could pave way for NYC launch of ride-sharing service Lyft

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lyft Inc has reached an agreement with New York authorities that could enable the ride-sharing service to launch in New York City.

Under the agreement, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission must test the San Francisco-based company's app and approve how its drivers are dispatched, according to officials with the commission and Lyft.

The company could also continue operating in Buffalo and Rochester if it provided the name and contact information of insurance carriers for its drivers by the end of the day, according to an agreement hashed out in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday morning.

Last week, just hours before Lyft was set to launch in New York City, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky asked Manhattan Supreme Court Acting Justice Kathryn Freed to stop the company, saying it had ignored licensing and insurance laws.

On Friday, Freed warned that she would issue a temporary order preventing Lyft from operating anywhere in the state if the company does not follow through with the agreement, according to a transcript of the hearing.

"We will work to complete the process of getting approval from the TLC as soon as possible," Paige Thelen, a spokeswoman for Lyft, said in an e-mail.

Meera Joshi, chair of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said in a statement that, "Over the past week, we've worked closely with Lyft to assist them in complying with our rules, as they had committed to doing, and at this point we are awaiting their compliance."

Lyft allows people to use a smartphone to request a ride within minutes from a "background-checked driver," whom they pay with a stored credit card when the ride ends, according to its website. For payment, Lyft collects suggested donations in some cities and a set amount in others, according to its website.

The company offers drivers an insurance plan and operates in more than 30 states, according to its website.

Lyft's competitors include Sidecar, which also links passengers with drivers who use their personal vehicles; and Uber, Flywheel and Hailo, which connect passengers and taxis.

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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