Lyft, a ridesharing service based in San Francisco, began operating in Minneapolis last Thursday amid some push back from the city regarding potential licensing requirements. Lyft has experienced similar obstacles with other cities, including St Paul when they launched there last fall. Their business model involves a network of drivers and riders that utilize an app available for your iPhone or Android device. The driver may be compensated in the form of a requested donation notification that appears on your phone once the ride is complete.
My first experience with Lyft was on the Saturday before last Halloween. I spent the night with my wife and in-laws bar hopping through Lowertown St Paul. We closed down the bars and spent 45 minutes waiting for our cab to arrive. Just as we were about to call another cab, I remembered that I had downloaded an app for a new ride service. When I opened the Lyft app, it asked if I wanted to “Request a Lyft” and showed me the nearest driver. After choosing my driver, I received a phone call from him verifying our address. In five minutes, he arrived in a shiny black Audi A4 and invited me to sit up front. On the ride home, we talked about cars and our driver made sure that the temperature was comfortable for all the passengers. We arrived home safe and, upon entering the house, I received a notification on my phone requesting a suggested donation and the ability to tip and rate our driver. I was officially sold! I suggest Lyft to everyone I meet.
Some Minneapolis city officials have taken issue with Lyft’s business description and contend that they are a “taxi service” and should be bound to all licensing requirements as such. However, Lyft’s unique donation model and user review system could actually make it better than a taxi, and their background requirements might make them safer than taxis, too. Lyft has responded by “offering free rides for the next two weeks to all new app downloaders.” and a petition was started to “welcome ridesharing to Minneapolis”: http://chn.ge/1fuxKte