Happy Birthday to Lyft! Lyft, which launched last year, is a “ride-sharing” service that really looks a bit more like a pirate taxi service, but that’s cool with us, we’re not judging. In fact, the Lyft ride-sharing service, with its pink mustaches and themed cars is about as cool a way to get from here to there as you can imagine. And with Lyft’s app-based dispatching process (and with municipalities clamping down on ehail apps for regular cabs), it’s far easier to catch a Lyft than a regular cab in many cities. Well, at least in the cities where Lyft is currently available (read on for a list of cities where you can ride the pink mustache). We also tell you how to sign up to be a Lyft driver.
First, here’s how it works. You download the Lyft app for either iPhone or Android:
And then when you open it, you can either sign up to get rides with ‘new friends’ (i.e. catch a lift – er, a Lyft) as a passenger:
Or you can sign up to be a Lyft driver. But more about that later.
As Lyft explains, it’s all about community, and they mean it. That is the basis for their model. It’s about ride-sharing, meeting new people, and getting to where you need to go.
In fact, part of the Lyft experience is that when your new friend arrives to give you a ride, you climb in the front (never the back!), and fist-bump them, and presumably admire (hopefully) the decor with which they chose to theme their car (at least in some cities that is part of the shtick – every driver has a ‘theme’ to their car, so, for example, in San Franciso you can request the “party car” or the “after work freshen-up car”, etc..).
You “donate” your payment to your new friend, based on what you think the ride was worth, although there is a suggested ‘donation’. Payments are made with a credit card that you put on file through the app, so you don’t have to worry about cash.
Lyft has been getting rave reviews, both from passengers and from drivers. Reviews such as “Just used Lyft last night for the first time in Seattle. Driver picked me up within 3 minutes of requesting a ride, was super friendly, car was clean and comfy. Best of all a trip that normally costs over $30 was only $20 per the suggested donation. Highly recommend” abound.
Drivers also are thrilled to have an opportunity to pick up some extra cash, even if they do have to affix that pink mustache on their car when they are ‘on duty’.
The Lyft Pink Mustache
So, why the pink mustache? Well, as Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer explain on the Lyft blog today (on the occassion of Lyft’s first birthday):
“What does the pink mustache stand for? People often ask when they see it for the first time, and once you’re part of the community, a bigger meaning comes through. The pink mustache is a smile. It’s the goal of finishing your ride a little happier than you were before. It’s the belief that people are inherently good. It’s the idea that a great conversation on a trip across town can result in a new friend, a job offer, or even a hug after a tough breakup. Longtime Lyft driver Danielle put it best when she said, ‘Lyfting restored my faith in humanity.'”
Of course, the pink mustache is also becoming Lyft’s brand, and, importantly, it allows passengers to identify their ride, and to pick them out of a crowd of other cars.
But that pink mustache has also allowed competitors, i.e yellow and other cab drivers, to readily identify Lyft drivers, for whom they have no love at all (except for those cabbies who are playing both sides of the coin – we have heard tell of cab drivers who become Lyft drivers during their off hours).
In fact, in California a couple of taxi drivers have filed a lawsuit against Uber, a similar ride service, with hopes of it becoming a class-action lawsuit by which, if it moves forward, Lyft will almost certainly be impacted.
More directly, Lyft was hit with a $20,000 fine, as was Uber, by the California Public Utilities Commission for operating an unlicensed charter car service, and for “engaging employee-drivers without evidence of workers’ compensation insurance in effect and on file with the CPUC”. The Lyft blog suggests that Lyft and the CPUC are working it out. But that is unlikely to reduce the ire of the taxi companies and drivers.
It’s not terribly surprising, as Lyft, et al, are doing it better, and, again, some cities have further hobbled the taxi services by disallowing eHail apps, although that trend seems to be reversing, which at least allows taxis to get on board with app-based hailing.
But it seems that people generally want to know up front how much a ride is going to cost them, rather than being at the mercy of a per-mile charge as is still standard with most taxis. And that is where Lyft and Uber still have the yellow cab model beat.
Lyft also is truly engendering a culture of fun and friendliness, and that is something that can scarcely be said of any taxi company. Their drivers also seem to be a happy lot, who truly enjoy their driving experience.
To sign up as a Lyft driver, you use the same app. To start, you tell them about your car – Lyft requires that your car have at least 4 doors.
Then you snap a picture of your license to submit to them – you will also need to provide your social security number – these allow them to run a background check on you.
Finally you will need to submit both a picture of your car, and proof of insurance.
Sounds pretty great, right?
Now for the bad news: Lyft is currently only available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. But they are rapidly expanding, and even if you aren’t in one of these cities, it shouldn’t be long before you see the pink mustaches coming to a street near you.
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