Lyft announced today that it will begin offering its service in New York City for the first time on Friday evening. The service will only be available for rides originating in Brooklyn and Queens, though riders can then be transported up to 60 miles. Which sounds like a horrible deal for the 500 initial drivers, who may have to drive from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then make it back to an outlying borough for the next ride.
Obviously, New York represents a major step for the ridesharing company as it proves that it can scale, given the city’s abundance of cabs, reliable public transportation, and notable regulatory suspicion of the sharing economy.
Lyft began in San Francisco, a city with with a dearth of cabs and a restrictive geography that made for an appreciative user base and shorter distances for drivers to travel between rides. In the meantime it has expanded into 67 other cities, saving the biggest for last. Its rival Uber, on the other hand, has operated in New York City since 2012, albeit with taxi licenses along a slightly different model that it uses in other cities. Lyft CEO and founder John Zimmer told Bloomberg that Lyft will not take that tack and will offer its usual ride-sharing model.
The announcement represents another rejoinder in the ongoing battle for market share between the two ride-sharing frontrunners. In city after city, the companies have taken turns slashing prices and offering various incentives to drivers. In San Francisco Uber even offered Lyft’s drivers $500 to join the other team. Today’s announcement comes right on the heels of Uber’s resolution of a price-gouging complaint with the New York state attorney general and the company’s claim that it was now cheaper to ride Uber than Yellow Cab in NYC.
In a move that further obscures any difference between the services offered by each company, Lyft will forgo its trademark fluffy pink car mustaches in NYC, sparing perplexed New Yorkers from asking themselves what burning man has to do with cancer awareness. There has been no word on fist-bumps.