Updated: April 24, 2014 at 5:53 pm
San Francisco-based Lyft Inc. has expanded its free ride-sharing company that operates like a taxi service into 23 additional cities, including Colorado Springs.
Lyft, which started operating in Denver in September, launched in Colorado Springs at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The company selected Colorado Springs to be included in its latest expansion because "we really loved the strong sense of community - we met a lot of friendly people there. We are excited to provide another option and fill a gap for people who want to get home from a bar at night or commute to work," said Paige Thelen, a spokeswoman at Lyft's San Francisco headquarters. "We are reducing the need for people to own a car by providing affordable, reliable and convenient transportation."
The service, which will now operate in 60 cities, uses a free smartphone application to connect riders and drivers; riders can view photos of drivers, their location and an estimated pickup time. The company signed up about 100 drivers earlier this month through advertisements on Craigslist, Facebook and several radio stations.
Lyft drivers must use se vehicles that manufactured in 2000 or after, have four doors and are able to carry four passengers. They also must complete a screening process that includes background and driving record checks, insurance verification and an inspection of the vehicle the driver uses to provide the service. The company provides additional liability and uninsured motorist coverage up to $1 million and offers additional collision coverage up to $50,000 that is added to any collision coverage the driver already has, she said.
Although drivers don't charge for the rides they provide, the application suggests a donation at the end of the trip that the rider can either increase or reduce that is then charged to credit card number they enter into the application. Lyft makes money by receiving a percentage of each donation. Passengers typically sit in the front seat of the cars providing the service, which are marked with large, fluffy pink mustaches attached to the grills.
Drivers typically take riders to supplement their income from other jobs, such as the military and teaching. Some drivers are graduate students and stay-at-home parents, Thelen said.
One Colorado Springs driver, Melanie Nettles, has been a stay-at-home mother and military spouse for 10 years and is hoping to make up to $500 a weekend by providing rides through Lyft.
"It is a perfect opportunity for me because I can work as much as I want," Nettles said. "I can make my own hours and my schedule can be as flexible as a I need it to be to fit around picking up my children from school."
Lyft and other ride-sharing services have drawn criticism from taxi providers, who argue the services function like cabs and should be regulated in the same way. In Colorado, Senate Bill 125 would subject such services to get a permit from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and follow state rules on safety conditions, insurance requirements, and driver qualifications. The bill has been approved by the state Senate and was sent Wednesday to the state House of Representatives after clearing three committees.
Lyft was developed by John Zimmer and Logan Green two years ago in San Francisco, the second product developed by the company they co-founded, Zimride. Lyft sold off the first service Zimride developed, an online carpooling service for long rides that was popular with college students, to car rental giant Enterprise.
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