A new ride-sharing service that operates somewhat like a taxi service but uses the Internet to match drivers and passengers has begun operations in the Toledo area.
The start of service locally by Lyft was part of a “24 cities in 24 hours” rollout Thursday night by the San Francisco firm, which has now expanded its ride-sharing model to 60 cities — not all of which have welcomed it.
Toledo is the fourth Ohio city where Lyft operates; earlier it began service in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. It also operates in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and as part of Thursday’s expansion, began service in Ann Arbor.
Katie Dally, a Lyft spokesman, said in an email why the privately held company chose Toledo as part of its “Lyftapalooza” expansion: “Toledo’s strong local community makes it a perfect fit for Lyft, which strengthens community further as local drivers and passengers connect and converse during rides throughout town.”
A personal connection, or more importantly, “trust,” is the key to the business model of Lyft, which began in 2012 in San Francisco, and of its competitors, Uber and Sidecar.
Lyft says it creates a bond between driver and passenger by requiring that neither can remain anonymous in the transaction.
Unlike taxi services where a customer calls a cab company and it dispatches a taxi to the customer’s location, Lyft works by having passengers use their smart phones to search the area and summon Lyft drivers, who “volunteer” to provide rides for customers.
The drivers use their own cars and attach large furry pink mustaches on the front.
To use Lyft, would-be passengers must download its smart phone app, then connect via Facebook where they must provide credit card information for payment purposes.
When a ride is requested, both passenger and driver are alerted and photos of each are sent to their phones. After each ride, both passenger and driver must rate each other through the app.
When the ride ends, a passenger is given a suggested cost for the ride based on a fee structure set for each city.
Payment is on a “donation” basis. The passenger is not required to donate, but “most passengers donate at least the suggested amount, and far more passengers elect to increase their donations than decrease,” Ms. Dally said.
Passengers have 24 hours to make their donation, so Ms. Dally said a driver’s rating of the passenger and the donation amount are not connected.
With regards to ratings, Lyft states that if either a passenger or driver rate each other at three stars (out of five) or less, they are never paired again.
Toledo’s fee structure, on which suggested donations will be based, is $1.50 per mile and 30 cents per minute.
The Toledo operation also has a $1 pickup fee, a $4 minimum fee, and a $5 cancellation fee.
There also is a $1 “trust & safety” fee, which funds driving record checks, background checks, and the $1 million-per-occurrence liability insurance policy the company has on drivers.
Lyft claims that it provides greater safety precautions than those of taxi or limousine companies.
The company says it carefully vets potential drivers through rigorous motor vehicles department and criminal background checks, in-person interviews, vehicle inspections, and training and safety sessions.
Drivers must be at least 23 years old and have had a driver’s license for at least three years. The company says it has a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy.
Because it operates as a “peer-to-peer” service and claims its drivers are not professionals, but rather community drivers willing to use their car to “share” rides, Lyft and its rivals have encountered resistance from some cities and taxi companies.
Claims have included avoidance of professional licenses and fees, unverified proof of insurance, and violations of city codes regarding livery services.
It has been sued by the cities of Columbus, Houston, Chicago, and San Antonio, and it was ordered to cease and desist operations by the city of Los Angeles.
Adam Loukx, Toledo city law director, said there has been no action by the city on Lyft’s operations locally, “but it’s a hot topic.”
Mr. Loukx said the city was aware of Lyft’s arrival, “and it’s something that we’re looking at” but when or if the city might act is unknown. “Honestly, we don’t know what we’re going to do, if anything. But it’s a priority and I’m sure we’ll get to it next week,” he said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.