Lockdowns throughout the country changed how people used transportation alternatives, but especially Uber and Lyft rides. One of the first services to be wiped out by the pandemic were their carpooling options, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. But roughly 16 months later, Lyft is now reportedly planning on slowly bringing back a revamped shared rides option.
Lyft’s chief financial officer reportedly disclosed on a 2020 earnings call that shared rides made up 17-18% of overall rides in the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Pre-pandemic, the company once said it wanted shared rides to make up 50% of its business by the end of 2020.
And now, the ridehailing company is getting back on pursuing that goal, reportedly saying recently it will restart the option beginning July 19 in three markets: Chicago, Denver, and Philadelphia. The company said it determined these markets to reintroduce shared rides based on rider demand and driver supply. Like in much of the country, California has an Uber and Lyf driver shortage. Lyft reportedly expects to eventually add the service to all of the nearly 20 markets where shared rides were offered pre-pandemic.
Riders will have three shared rides options, which will be tiered by wait time and have upfront pricing assigned to each:
- 15-30 minutes;
- 5-15 minute;
- And less than 10 minutes.
The longer the wait, the more discounted the ride. “As the country reopens, we want our most affordable ride option to be available to our riders,” Lyft president and cofounder John Zimmer reportedly said in a statement.
Moreover, Lyft also said it would add “no surprise pickups” labels on certain shared rides. Those routes will be fixed with no added stops while en route — a factor that will contribute to a more accurate estimated arrival time for riders, the company said.
And since the pandemic is not quite over, there are some new precautions in place. Lyft riders will only be able to book a single seat (meaning no guests), front and middle seats must be unoccupied, and masks are required for riders and drivers, as with its regular service.
As CNN Business noted, ride sharing might help offset the aforementioned driver shortage. “It’s a basic supply-and-demand problem: costs tend to be higher for consumers when fewer drivers are on the road. Given those costs, some users may wish to take advantage of more budget-friendly ride options,” the publication wrote.
When asked by CNN Business about its plans for shared rides in the U.S., an Uber spokesperson reportedly said the company will “explore re-launching Pool when the time is right and will follow the guidance of health experts.” The company did, however, relaunch a version of Pool in Australia’s Perth and Sydney markets this year. To minimize detours and wait times, at times riders are asked to walk to or from a pickup location.