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Need a Lyft?

Lyft is a San Francisco–based company whose mobile-phone app facilitates peer-to-peer ridesharing; enabling passengers who need a ride to request one from drivers in their area. [PHOTO: Flickr, Bootleggerson]
Have you seen one of these big pink mustaches tooling around town lately? This past April a ridesharing service called Lyft external link entered the Rochester market. Lyft connects people—via mobile app—who need a ride with drivers in their area. The pink facial hair is sort of the calling card of the Lyft brand.

Recently I got to talking with a local Lyft driver, Fred from Penfield, and he says from his point of view, the service has been a smashing success. “There are about 40 of us in Rochester,” says Fred. “We are similar to Uber and Sidecar, but we are much friendlier and have a much bigger focus on safety.”

Besides the pink moustaches, it’s also common for drivers and passengers to fist pump at the start of each ride. The following is a summary of our conversation about Lyft…

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: So are you involved with the company somehow, or did you just sign up to be a driver?

FRED: Both. I am a “founding driver” here in Rochester. I’m from Perinton.

I’m not an employee of the company, if that’s what you mean. The company is based in San Francisco and they launched into 24 new cities on 4/24. Rochester was one of them. (As was Buffalo).

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Mind if I ask you a few questions about Lyft and share your answers for others to read?

They do have a media contact in SanFran, but I think I would be allowed to comment about my awesome experience thus far.

I’ve met some awesome people in my two weeks since 4/24. I’ve made some good money, and I’ve helped some great people get rides to where they need to go. It helps the environment, too.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: So how’s it work?

FRED: It acts like a taxi, but a better term would be a “transportation network company”. It’s app-based via smartphones. Drivers, once approved, login and make themselves available as they do their errands around town. Potential passengers request a ride and the nearest Lyft driver responds to pick them up and takes them to their destination as long as its within 60 miles of city center.

Fares run on average about 30% less than a taxi fare – and with a much better relationship between all involved. No grumpy taxi dispatchers…cars much cleaner that drive with more safety-minded drivers…fun Lyft drivers that care about their community…and a Lyft car usually arrives within 15 minutes (often within 5!) and the passenger can track the arrival progress live on the app. There is no additional fees for passengers. Just one rate for the trip no matter how many ride.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: As a driver, do you actually make money?

FRED: As of now (after 3 weeks) I’ve given 87 rides. I’ve made $1,276 (before taxes and expenses).

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: What was your longest trip?

FRED: I took a guy home from downtown to Victor.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Do you typically have passengers on the return trip too? Or are these pick-ups fairly scattered?

FRED: Both. Depends on the time of day. During the day I’ll get some people doing errands. They might pick up a prescription and then I’ll take them home. Later at night, you focus more on people looking to get home from the bars. Sometimes we will have a large group trying to get to a bar or a party. We either take two trips, or someone else can request a second car. I’ve done it either way. Safety is important. We will not overload our cars beyond seat belt capacity.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Is this safe?

FRED: Lyft is very committed to safety external link. Drivers are screened and backgrounds are checked for driving incidents and criminal offenses. Cars must be model year 2000 or newer, and pass a 19-point vehicle inspection which is conducted in-person. They also provide excellent insurance protection, and a user rating system.

The rating system is two-way. Drivers rate passengers and vice-versa. That way, if anyone doesn’t like the other, the app is smart enough to never again pair those two people.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Ok, let’s say you’re involved in an accident? What then?

FRED: Here’s an excellent article external linkwritten from the perspective of a passenger who was involved in an accident while on a Lyft ride.

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Give me an example of a really good Lyft experience you’ve had.

FRED: I gave a ride to a guy who told me he was a certified urban planner. We had great discussions over everything related to ridesharing and city life. (He said he knows you!)

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Small world. Have you had any bad experiences?

FRED: The other night I was picking up a very drunk passenger from the sidewalk after the bar owner asked for a ride from within the app. As I was waiting for him to saunter my way, a cabbie pulled over in front of me. He was giving me the death look. Very uncomfortable stares. There happened to be a city cop right there. The cabbie goes over to the cop and as soon as I depart the curb, the cop pulls me over for “no inspection”. I politely verify that I did indeed have proper inspection, and he lets me go pretty quickly (I guess he just wanted to check me out?). It seems the taxi corps in Rochester is very upset at the arrival of Lyft. But we remain unfailingly positive and as the old saying goes… we’ll kill ’em with kindness!

ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: So do you think you’ll continue to drive? And more importantly, is Lyft something you’d recommend others use?

FRED: Absolutely! I have met so many wonderful people! I have helped meet the need of people who need a ride and either cannot afford, or find, a cab. (Others feel hamstrung by the bus system due to its ridership or schedule). I have made some extra money. And I’ve had a blast! I’m so glad I got started and I’m proud to be a part of the new ridesharing movement.

• • •

If you’re interested in ridesharing, you may also find ROCeasyride external link useful. ROCeasyride is a website put together by the Genesee Transportation Council that helps Rochesterians plan trips via bus, bike, or carpool. Although from my experience, their carpooling network is quite limited at this point.

Lyft has competition from other ridesharing services such as Uber. But for now, Lyft is the only one of its kind in Rochester. [PHOTO: Flickr, Steve Rhodes]
Lyft may be the only real-time ridesharing service in our area at the moment, but there are others out there (Carma Carpool external link, Uber external link, Sidecar external link, Zimride external linkand Wingz external link) all vying for the a slice of this emerging industry.


And, all of these services are facing some legal challenges, particularly from the cabby community who (maybe understandably) feel threatened by this new competition.

For now anyway, it looks like hot pink mustaches are trending in Rochester.

• • •

UPDATE

I asked Fred for an update just before this story was posted. He replied back…

I was just honored to be selected [by Lyft] as one of their founding “Trailblazers” for Rochester. That’s kinda cool. They offered to fly my out to San Francisco, all expenses paid, for a Trailblazers conference, but I’ll have to decline the trip for family reasons. But I’ll still be committed to organizing and mentoring new drivers here in Rochester. I’m up to about 180 rides now, but other drivers that are doing it full time have logged 300+ rides since launch day on 4/24.

I hope that the major insurance carriers start coming around sooner rather than later. Liberty Mutual is welcoming Lyft drivers with open arms in Massachusetts. I hope Geico doesn’t get wind of your article and drop me, but they would be hard pressed to do so as we are really the safest drivers on the road. That’s why Lyft picked us in the first place.

The Northeast Facebook driver’s lounge (1,500 drivers there) shows 2 drivers were dropped by their insurance carriers since they were discovered to be Lyft drivers. One in Boston and one in Pittsburgh. The Boston lad moved to Liberty Mutual, and I believe the Pittsburgh girl is still looking for a carrier.

California is leading the pack. They have comprehensive legislation passed that formally recognizes the “transportation network company” as a new genre of transportation. It guarantees them insurance coverage also. I hope that template starts spreading nationwide soon.

WIVB posted an article external linkthis afternoon about a ticket issued to a Lyft driver in Buffalo. Appears the ticket (non-criminal) centers around violation a contract issue with the airport out there. They have different rules that govern the whole transportation industry than what appears to be in play here. I heard Buffalo’s city charter is very different than Rochester’s, which is why Buffalo seems to have more Lyft-centered problems than Rochester.

Oh, and I’ve grossed about $2700 since day one. But my gas costs have gone up. I suspect I have netted about $1600 after taking into account gas & taxes.

Sent from my iPhone. Have a good day!

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 at 7:45 am and is filed under Interviews, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Need a Lyft?”

  1. Bobolium says:

    So, does the background check Lyft runs go both ways? Do they screen the riders as well as the drivers? Because, I’d really want to know who was getting in my car if I were a driver…

  2. @Bodolium, according to the Lyft website, “Passengers must provide a valid credit card and phone number for identity verification purposes. Drivers and passengers also rate each other at the end of a ride” so like Fred said, the rating system is two-way. But as far pre-screening passengers, I don’t see anything that says that.

  3. Brian says:

    Pretty awesome! Been seeing those hot pink staches around the city. Will have to try them very soon, and thanks for the informative interview. :)

  4. Sean Hayes says:

    “Others feel hamstrung by the bus system due to its ridership”

    WTF is that supposed to mean?

  5. Carl says:

    My wife started driving for them this past weekend and earned in 3 days what she makes at her fulltime job in 2 weeks. Looks like she’s in store for a career change!

  6. MrRochester says:

    Ive enjoyed using Lyft so far around Rochester. I met some douche from Manhattan the other night that works for Uber in NYC and he spent the night putting Lyft down all evening. He stated that the cab companies and NYS will soon have Lyft shut down and out of Rochester and Buffalo. There are currently lawsuits against Uber in NYC and he stated “its only a matter of time.”

  7. NightFlight75 says:

    So Lyft is basically a taxi service with a good app that allows “employees” to drive whenever convenient. The drivers are not licensed as taxi drivers per NYS regulations. They don’t pay extra for insurance that would allow them to have paying customers as taxi drivers do. They don’t pay for expensive trip calculation equipment in their cars. And they almost definitely aren’t paying income or sales taxes on this income. Do you wonder why taxi companies and NYS don’t want them around? Of course “it’s only a matter of time” before they are shut down and rightly so.

    Let’s put it another way… If you own a bar, would it be fair to compete against someone next door who charges money for drinks at their house, but doesn’t have a liquor license, and doesn’t pay sales tax or income tax?

  8. Urban Explorer says:

    Whether or not Lyft drivers pay income tax is the same as all of the other people who have sold me goods or services over the years like furniture makers, hair stylists, arborists, roadside honey and egg stands, etc. etc. etc.

    Why single out Lyft drivers? Or do you propose we crack down on all aspects of the semi-formal economy?

  9. NightFlight75 says:

    “Why single out Lyft drivers?”

    Because I commented on an article about Lyft, not furniture makers. And tried to illustrate the cost differences for Lyft drivers versus licensed taxi drivers (that do the SAME job!) but whose income is likely to be reported to the government via W-2 forms.

  10. Marie @RideShareGuy says:

    I kind of look forward to doing my taxes and this year with rideshare it will be no different. I just did a podcast on my website about how I plan on handling all of my deductions :)


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