Lyft Launching in Columbus
Lyft, the San Francisco-based ridesharing app that calls itself “your friend with a car,” is set to launch in Columbus on Friday. Starting at 8pm, users in Columbus who have downloaded the app will be able to request a ride from the small network of drivers that have already been vetted and approved by the company.
Lyft drivers use their own cars – with a pink mustache placed on the grill – to pick up passengers. Fares are based on time and distance and referred to as “donations” – passengers pay through the app and are free to increase or decrease the requested payment. As part of a promotion Lyft has been using in cities new to the service, two free weeks of rides are being offered to anyone creating an account in Columbus (the program is called “Lyft Pioneers”).
“We’re excited about Columbus,” said Paige Thelen of Lyft. “The city is growing quickly, and that includes a tremendous amount of young professionals, so we’re excited to provide a transportation alternative for them.”
She also said that Lyft has been in touch with city leaders in Columbus about the launch and has worked hard to explain the company’s peer-to-peer business model and commitment to safety.
Amanda Ford of the city’s Public Safety Department confirmed that they have been in discussion with Lyft for the last few months, but said they are still working on a series of changes to the code that would allow the company to operate legally on city streets. Uber encountered similar issues with their launch in Columbus. Eventually, the city worked out code changes and Uber expanded their operation.
As for the competition that Lyft could see from the increasingly crowded field of transportation alternatives in Columbus, Thelen of Lyft said that a city having lots of transportation options is a good thing.
“We believe that people should have options when it comes to transportation, so we understand other methods of transportation such as taxis, black cars and other ride-sharing and casual carpool platforms are important for communities,” she said, adding that, “Lyft is a peer-to-peer ride-sharing community; people enjoy using the unique experience of sitting in the front seat, playing your own music and getting to know the driver next to you.”