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VOL. 129 | NO. 81 | Friday, April 25, 2014

Ride-Sharing Services Launch in Memphis

By Andy Meek

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Competing ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have landed in Memphis.

The services, which have been popular in bigger markets, announced in recent days their respective expansions into new markets, including Memphis.

Each service has a similar customer experience. When someone wants a ride from Lyft, for example, they'll pull up the Lyft mobile app and request one. They’ll be matched with a Lyft driver from the area and will see their picture on the app, which also lets the rider know the Lyft driver’s estimated time of arrival.

Ride-sharing service Lyft has expanded to Memphis. This coverage map shows where Lyft passengers can request rides.

(Lyft)

The Lyft cars – available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – have distinctive, large, pink mustaches attached to the grilles. When the ride is over, the app charges payment from the user’s credit card so that there’s no need to carry cash.

The company told The Daily News that users could start using the service in Memphis at 7 p.m. April 24.

“Lyft is thrilled to now offer residents of and visitors to Tennessee's largest city the most convenient, affordable and safest rides to and from all Memphis' prolific art, music and foodie events,” said Lyft spokeswomen Katie Dally. “Bringing a peer-to-peer ridesharing platform known for pink mustaches on drivers’ cars to the home of Elvis, Graceland and the ‘Pink Cadillac’ struck a chord with us, too.”

An informational Web page for Memphis shows Lyft is charging riders based on a combination of time and distance. The cost includes $1.40 per mile, 20 cents per minute, an 85-cent pickup fee and a $1 trust and safety fee. There’s a minimum required cost of $4 and a cancellation fee of $5.

Riders are getting two weeks of free rides as part of Lyft’s rollout in the two dozen cities it announced Thursday. Another important feature of the service for new users to know is that drivers and passengers can rate each other through the app once the ride is done.

Rate a driver three stars or below, according to the website, and that rider will never be matched with them again.

“Our goal is to bring affordable, safe, friendly, community-powered rides to all corners of the country, and this is a big step to help us get there,” Dally said. “We are about Main Street, not Wall Street, and creating economic opportunity across America, not just in Silicon Valley.”

Referring to the new cities Lyft has added, Dally went on: “These cities also have strong community roots and local hometown pride that make them all great fits for Lyft. Many residents of these cities rely heavily on their own cars to get around town, and we wanted them to have an opportunity to leave their car at home – or to give rides to their neighbors and put their empty seats to new use.”

In terms of safety, Lyft says it has $1 million liability insurance in place covering driver liability for bodily injury and/or property damage. Drivers are screened for criminal records and any driving incidents.

Lyft says it maintains a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy, and Lyft cars have to be model year 2000 or newer and pass a 19-point inspection.

Uber, meanwhile, also announced at the end of last week that it's now available in Memphis. It likewise is giving customers free rides for two weeks.

"And we're live folks!" Uber tweeted April 25. "FREE uberX rides in #Memphis until 5/8. Stoked to get our #Growl on."

Opponents have said ventures like Lyft and Uber should come under the same scrutiny as a taxi business.

"There's a reason our business is regulated, and that's what these app companies are going to realize," said Ham Smythe IV, president of Yellow Cab & Checker Cab, referring to Lyft's promise of inspections and background checks versus a cab company's requirement to do that officially with a city office, file paperwork, and the like. "Transportation for hire needs to be supervised. You can't count on the goodwill of the driver to protect a consumer who doesn't know what they're getting."

Kansas City is another of the new cities where Lyft has launched, and a taxi company CEO there, according to the Kansas City Star, compared Lyft to selling liquor out of a minivan on the street or serving meals from a food truck without submitting to health inspections.

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