According to Lyft’s new general manager for D.C., Steven Taylor, the ridesharing and carpooling market in the District is full — and features some big players — but it is not yet saturated.
“There is lots of opportunity for growth [in the rideshare space],” Taylor told Technical.ly.
That’s good news for Lyft, as the company announced today that it’ll be launching Lyft Line in D.C. on Nov. 19. Lyft Line, currently available in five U.S. cities, pairs riders traveling in similar directions in order to offer discounts to the riders. Lyft claims that riders can save up to 60 percent by using Lyft Line rather than a regular Lyft — a figure similar to Uber’s claim that uberPOOL is up to 50 percent cheaper than uberX.
Why launch in D.C. now?
“D.C. is one of our largest markets,” Taylor told Technical.ly. “We’ve had a plan for launching Lyft Line across all of our markets for a long time, and this is just sort of the natural extension of our plan.”
Lyft says that 50 percent of all Lyft rides in San Francisco (Lyft Line’s first city) and New York are now Lyft Line rides. So yes, it makes sense to bring the option to one of the company’s largest markets.
However, Taylor’s belief about the saturation point of D.C.’s carpooling market notwithstanding, Lyft Line won’t be the only option in town.
Uber, a very direct competitor to Lyft, launched its carpooling option, uberPOOL, on Oct. 22. Beyond that, D.C. has a homegrown option as well — it’s called Split, which we profiled in July. And while there are some differences between Split and uberPOOL or Lyft Line, one of the major issues that each company seeks to address — congestion on our roads — is the same.
So how is Lyft Line different?
“It’s two things,” Taylor said, “the approach that we have to solving the issue of congestion is different than our competitors, and the experience we provide [users] is different.”
“The approach is — we’re not necessarily connecting one passenger to one driver and giving a private car experience,” Taylor continued. “We’re really trying to connect communities. We’re really connecting people, and Lyft Line is an extension of that.”
And when it comes to the experience: “We’re encouraging people — whether it’s sitting in the front seat or doing the fist bump that we used to do — we’re encouraging conversation. And Lyft Line again is not just connecting that one passenger to the one driver — it’s also connecting multiple passengers along a common route.”
These two things really seem to boil down to just one big, if nebulous, thing — Lyft (and Lyft Line) is about more than just getting people from door to door. Lyft wants to be the ridesharing option that fosters conversation, connection and community, all while filling your transportation needs.
And now all that for up to 60 percent less? Sounds great.
But how, exactly, does Lyft intend to foster this environment of conversation, connection and community? “It’s in the branding,” Taylor said. By this he means the front seat thing, the fist bump (though he said that the company has moved away from this) and the fuzzy pink mustache.
“The branding itself of Lyft … is all sort of encouraging a friendlier environment that’s encouraging that conversation,” Taylor confirms.
Of course, Taylor admits that engaging with the people around you is a personal choice, and tends to happen (or not happen) organically. However, he said, “we help in ways that we can to encourage that interaction.”
If there was one thing that really stood out to Technical.ly about Lyft’s specific growth strategy vis a vis their competitors’, it would be the company’s focus on first- and last-mile solutions. Lyft sees itself as a complement to public transportation — a solution for those D.C. residents who live too far from a metro station to walk. Lyft Line, Taylor said, will help make this solution more cost-effective for users.
“Public transportation is something we want to integrate with,” Taylor said. As such, Lyft recently launched its Friends with Transit campaign in an attempt to communicate how the ridesharing option can complement public transport.
Need a little Lyft in your commute? The company will be celebrating the launch of Lyft Line by offering an additional 35 percent off Lyft Line rides in their “hotzone” (see map below) between 5 a.m. on Monday and 5 p.m. on Friday.
Be sure to be friendly.
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