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Inside Lyft’s Baltimore growth plans

The ridesharing service has a year-old office in the city, and is looking to build partnerships with local businesses.

Grab a Lyft. (Courtesy photo)
This post was updated at 8:34 p.m. on 9/26/17.

Since entering Baltimore in 2013, Lyft’s presence has grown. You could start with measuring that by rides. Though the company doesn’t release exact figures, the number of rides grew 8x from the beginning of 2016 to the end of the year, said Mike Heslin, the company’s Baltimore market manager.
It has the ridesharing company optimistic about its future in the city.
“We are here for the long haul and we’re really excited about it,” Heslin said. “The opportunity in Baltimore is so massive for a company like ours.” He pointed to the high population of students and young professionals, as well as the growing nightlife and business community as some reasons behind that opportunity.
Lyft has also been expanding its offerings, introducing a car rental program for drivers and its luxury service in the city. The service and its ever-present competitor Uber have been getting more government approval, as well, including a favorable ruling on background checks in late 2016 and a deal with the state government to have designated zones at BWI in May. Though it’s not directly under the Baltimore market’s purview, it’s also worth noting that Lyft announced in August that rides would be available statewide in its latest bid to take on Uber.
In Baltimore city, a physical sign of the desire to dig in lies in a two-level space not far from Penn Station. That’s where the company set up an office that functions as the local operations for the company in Baltimore. There’s space for drivers to meet one-on-one with employees, or in groups. It’s also the home of an operations and marketing team that provides local capacity to keep growing.
Right now, Heslin said the team is focused on reaching out to other businesses in hopes of establishing arrangements that make Lyft access easier.
“We are very much in partnership building mode locally,” he said.

Mike Heslin, Lyft's Market Manager for Baltimore. (Courtesy photo)

Mike Heslin, Lyft’s Market Manager for Baltimore. (Courtesy photo)

One example is a partnership with McHenry Row. The growing South Baltimore development has residences, offices and retail. As a result of the partnership, it now has pickup areas and signage designated for those using Lyft. The ridesharing company is also looking to engage property owners to offer incentives for using the service. Event-wise, the company partnered with the Moonrise Festival at Pimlico in August.
Along with property owners and individual events, Heslin sees major employers or entertainment venues as potential partners. The company also has a separate portal for businesses.
With the company’s technical talent concentrated in San Francisco, partnerships are where Heslin sees opportunities to collaborate with the community of young companies and workers in the city.
He said the office is focused on, “How can we make Baltimore a city that it’s easy to work and live and thrive in without having a car? That’s not something that any one company can do on their own.”
New and current Lyft riders: Click here and use code BIW17 and get a free ride to the Baltimore Innovation Week Innovation Celebration PLUS enjoy 50 percent off up to four rides to and from 2017 Baltimore Innovation Events with the same code: BIW17.

Companies: Lyft

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