Apps / Municipal government / Startups / Technology / Transportation

Lyft ridesharing service to launch in Baltimore on Oct. 17

Baltimore is the ridesharing service's 16th expansion city.

Grab a Lyft. (Courtesy photo)

San Francisco-based ridesharing service Lyft is launching in Baltimore on Oct. 17. It’s the 16th expansion site for the startup. Baltimore reported earlier this month that Lyft was scheduled to launch a week earlier. Several city residents chosen as launch drivers for Lyft in Baltimore contacted us to inform us the launch date they were given was Oct. 10.
“I got an e-mail with that date … and I asked if it was OK to spread the word,” said GIS developer Elliott Plack, a Canton resident. “They said, ‘yeah.'”
But Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson confirmed a launch for Oct. 17 at 4 p.m. A launch party with food and an open bar will take place at the Baltimore Museum of Industry from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The price of admission: flaunting your Lyft app on your smartphone.
“Lyft will fit in really well with the other transportation options,” Simpson said.
Several team members involved with Lyft’s launch in Baltimore have been working from the Emerging Technology Center in Canton, but Lyft does not have a permanent office in the city.
Unlike ridesharing service Uber, which has been in Baltimore since early 2013 and connects riders with existing chauffeur companies, Lyft enlists riders in cities where it launches as drivers. Riders summon vehicles via smartphone app, and then identify their ride by the fuzzy mustaches affixed to the vehicle’s front bumper. All Lyft drivers undergo criminal background and DMV record checks, and must drive a vehicle that passes a safety inspection and is no older than a year 2000 model. Simpson said the startup carries $1 million in liability insurance.
That detail is important as Lyft sets up shop. Shortly after Uber launched in Baltimore, Yellow Cab filed a challenge with the Maryland Public Service Commission requesting that Uber comply with the same safety and insurance regulations as taxi companies. Ultimately, the challenge request was denied.
In Washington, D.C., where Lyft launched Aug. 1, similar scrutiny has been applied to the ridesharing service. Simpson said D.C. City Council has signed temporary legislation authorizing Lyft to operate in the nation’s capital for 90 days. Following that probationary period, a commission will make a final ruling on whether Lyft may permanently operate legally in the district.
Simpson said that Lyft has had “initial conversations” with the City of Baltimore.
In August, Lyft surpassed one million rides.

Companies: Lyft / Emerging Technology Centers (ETC Baltimore) / City of Baltimore / Uber

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