Lyft is turning its app into a one-stop multimodal transportation app in a few U.S. cities, the latest illustration of its transformation from ridesharing startup to a company that wants to own, or at least be a part of, every way people move from Point A to Point B, whether it’s cars, bikes, scooters or even public transit.
This new version of Lyft’s app, which allows users to request a shared car, find a scooter or bike, as well as see nearby public transit options, is only available in those cities where the company has launched these services. For now, it’s a short list that includes Washington, D.C., Santa Monica, Calif. and Los Angeles. But it will likely grow as the company launches scooter and bike sharing in more cities and as it forms partnerships with transit authorities through its Nearby Transit feature, which includes route information and schedules for buses and trains.
The new version of Lyft’s app shows every mobility option and makes suggestions based on user behavior, location and other data. And because the app integrates with public transit as well, it will show users when their trip might be quicker or more efficient using a local bus or subway, even though Lyft doesn’t financially benefit from that option.
Lyft has been moving toward this “all-of-the-above” approach for much of 2018, a shift accelerated by its acquisition of Motivate, the oldest and largest electric bike-share company in North America, the launch of its scooter business and its Nearby Transit program that kicked off in Santa Monica this September.
Lyft’s scooter-sharing service, which launched in Denver, is now in six cities. The company plans to nearly double that number by the end of 2018 — just a few weeks away. It’s scaling up bike sharing, as well. The company, through its Motivate bike-share brand, has invested $100 million in Citi Bike, expanding the fleet to 40,000 bikes over the next five years. Lyft is now the largest bike-share service in North America.
On Thursday, Ford GoBike — a Motivate system that is now owned by Lyft — is introducing more than 500 new pedal-assist electric bikes to its bike-share network in the East Bay of San Francisco.
This multimodal strategy, which Lyft outlined back in July, will help the company meet its goal of taking 1 million cars off the road by 2019. (Last year, Lyft says 250,000 of its community members gave up their personal cars.) It’s an effort that has been driven, in part, by Caroline Samponaro, Lyft’s head of bikes, scooters and pedestrian policy who has a long history as a bike activist. Samponaro, who posted a blog on Thursday describing her approach, fought for protected bike lanes in New York and led a grassroots campaign to redesign NYC’s streets. Samponaro most recently worked at Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group.
“We’re taking a long view, and really leaning in hard into the ways that we can help solve large transportation problems for cities by getting people out of cars, and onto bikes and scooters or out of cars and into transit,” Samponaro told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “This really is making good on the vision that the founders have for the company to be a part of these large systemic transportation solutions, and partnerships with cities is core to the success of that.”
Lyft is also pushing to improve bike safety. It recently received approval for its Valencia Street project in the Mission District of San Francisco, which is one of the most heavily trafficked bicycling corridors in the city. To decrease double parking that obstructs bike lanes, Lyft is piloting a geo-fenced program that diverts to a dedicated location outside of traffic flow drivers’ pick-ups and drop-offs for passengers.
Of course, this isn’t just about making the world a better place. Lyft is a company after all, and one that sees greater opportunity and benefits to diversifying its business.
The battle between Uber and Lyft over ride-hailing market share in the U.S. has shifted to a larger war for control over transportation. While much of the attention has focused on the Uber versus Lyft story line, there are other important players in the mix that will influence the outcomes. And those are cities and transit authorities.