Ride-Sharing App Lyft Ready to Give Uber a Run for Its Money

By Paul DeBenedetto on July 2, 2014 5:35pm 

 Lyft cars, with their signature pink moustaches. The company has begun outreach to drum up support in New York City.
Lyft cars, with their signature pink moustaches. The company has begun outreach to drum up support in New York City.
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Lyft

NEW YORK CITY — Mustachioed ride-sharing app Lyft, which connects passengers with drivers, is attending community meetings across the city in an effort to drum up local support for its services, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The company gave a presentation at Tuesday's Community Board 3 meeting in Bed-Stuy, and a representative of the company said they've attended similar meetings in Brooklyn and Queens.

The company currently operates in 64 cities across the country, including two locations in upstate New York and in northern New Jersey.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed that it is "exploring the market" in New York City.

"We've seen an outpouring of support asking for Lyft to come to NYC - more than we've ever seen in any market to date, particularly in the outer boroughs that are underserved by transportation options," spokeswoman Erin Simpson said in an email.

When users download the app, they are prompted to sign in with their Facebook account. Once logged in, users can search a map of the surrounding areas for drivers.

Passengers recognize their Lyft driver by the fuzzy pink moustache that adorns the front of each car.

A competing company, Uber, already operates in the city and connects riders to yellow taxis and black cabs operating out of a specific base.

Lyft, meanwhile, is lobbying for control over its own drivers if it launches in New York, according to reports.

A spokesman for the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission on Tuesday said the agency was open to working with Lyft in a capacity similar to that of Uber.

"We are aware that Lyft has been gearing up for some kind of launch, and plan to meet with them to discuss their intentions," agency spokesman Allan Fromberg said in an email.

"We'd be pleased to assist them in structuring a service consistent with public safety and consumer protections that operates within the laws and rules of New York City."

Lyft drivers technically work on a donation-based system, in which users are asked to "donate" their fare at the end of a ride. Lyft makes money by taking 20 percent of that donation.

The company said it conducts its own 19-point vehicle inspection and performs a background check on all drivers. It also provides additional insurance for every car.

Taxi drivers, meanwhile, are wary of the possibility that Lyft vehicles could soon flood the streets.

Companies like Lyft, critics argue, threaten the jobs of professional drivers and lack proper regulation.

And while Lyft offers additional insurance to cars, it doesn't provide benefits like workers compensation or disability, said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the 17,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who called ride-sharing "a really horrible transportation model."

"What the sharing model has done is take the worst aspects of the taxi industry, and tries to call it progress because they're using technology," Desai said. "In reality, it's just furthering the exploitation."

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