By LeMara Perry
If you have yet to see vehicles with huge pink mustaches driving throughout your neighborhood, you can expect to see it soon. That bright pink, furry mustache stuck to the front of dozens of cars is the signature of Lyft, a car pickup service run solely from your Apple and Android devices.
Greeted by drivers with a fist-bump and a smile, hundreds of people have now made it a part of their daily routine, especially college students. The peer-to-peer “ride on demand” service has become a fierce competition for taxis and other ride-sharing services such as Uber and Side Car nationwide. Last October, the San Francisco-based company began pairing citizen drivers with people in need of rides throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, making life for students at Howard, Georgetown, and other universities across the District a little easier.
On April 24 Lyft made its debut in 24 new cities, expanding their market to a total of 60 cities nationwide. These cities included Albuquerque, Fresno, Memphis and Toledo. “I have been a Lyft driver since it began in D.C,” said Anthony Johnson, a former AAA tow truck driver.
Johnson has now made being a Lyft driver his full time job. His Toyota Corolla, once used to commute back and forth to work, is now used for the sole purpose of toting passengers across the city.
“I love this job. On average I make at least $1200 if not more a week,” said Johnson.
“I am my own boss, I set my own schedule and at the same time I get to interact with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” he said.
In order to “Lyft” a ride, passengers must first download the Lyft app to their mobile device and create an account. In order to sign up, Lyft requires adding a verifiable cell phone number or Facebook account, as well as adding bank issued credit or debit card information. Facebook was initially the only method of signing up with Lyft for both passengers and drivers. According to Lyft, “requiring each user’s personal Facebook to sign up was the most effective tool to ensure accountability, recognition, and safety when it came to passenger and driver interaction.”
One of Lyft’s on going promotions gives new passengers who have been invited to try Lyft by a current user a $25 credit towards their first ride, when the promo code is entered at sign up. Not only does the new passenger receive the credit, but the referrer as well, “I signed up for Lyft during one of their early promotions where they gave you up to 50 free rides for your first two weeks,” said Natanya Abraham, a recent Howard University graduate.
“Trying to commute back and forth from Hyattsville, MD to work in Georgetown on the train or bus was a hassle, but Lyft has made it so much easier,” said Abraham. “Just by getting my friends to sign up I’ve had $100 added to my account,” she said. Whenever you need a ride, open the Lyft app on your phone and it will display a map with your location marked by a little balloon.
Sometimes the location is not accurate, so you have the option to manually enter your address or to adjust the target icon in the bottom right corner of the map and it will move to where you currently are. If there are available Lyft drivers in the area, it will show you how many there are and how far away from you they are located.
Once you tap the “Request a Lyft” button, it will ask you to confirm, and then sends your request to any available drivers, and one will respond.
The app provides passengers with a picture of the driver, as well as of the car that they will be picked up in. It also shows a car icon on the map, which moves, as the driver gets closer.
When the driver has arrived they have the option to send a text to your phone saying, “Your Lyft is here to pick you up” or to actually call. You also have the option to call them at anytime, as they are in route to your destination.
When the ride is over, passengers will receive a notification on their phone. In some markets, such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, a “suggested donation” based on the miles driven and the duration of the ride pops up on your phone. You can adjust it up or down based on service and rate your driver. Although, you are warned that low donations hinder your chances of finding another driver willing to pick you up. Lyft emails you a receipt for the amount, which is charged to your credit card on file.
In Washington D.C. and other markets, Lyft charges users a set fee. The minimum amount for a ride is typically $5.00. Lyft charges D.C. passengers a $2.03 pickup fee, $1.26 per mile, $.26 per minute and a $1.00 trust and safety fee. During their designated “happy hour,” fare is reduced by up to 50 percent.
While some citizens have voiced their concerns and opinions about using Lyft and riding around with strangers on social media sites, Lyfts’s trust and safety fee covers their ongoing background checks for drivers and liability insurance policy. Potential drivers can not have any history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, theft, property damage or felonies.
In addition to background checks, Lyft also conducts a phone screening and an in-person meeting for all drivers.
Currently in the District of Columbia, Lyft and other rideshare services are self regulated through their online rating systems. Passengers who pay a driver poorly or a driver who drives dangerously more than likely receives bad reviews.
Last month, the D.C. Taxi commission proposed a set of rules that would treat rideshare services as private sedans for hire. The commission suggested requiring the ride share companies to buy insurance submit drivers to background check, although it is already a requirement for Lyft and force them to have their vehicles checked every six-months, just like taxis. They also proposed restricting drivers to a maximum of 20 hour per week.