(Updated with comment from Uber)
New York City has had its fair share of trouble thrown at it. While I lived there I survived an earthquake, a tornado, multiple blizzards, quite a few hurricanes and at last two terrorist attacks. We've managed to survive through some of the worst sports teams in history and eight years of Rudy Guliani as our mayor.
What I'm saying is, New York can handle anything so I have no doubt that the city will also survive what's coming next: the battle of the ride-sharing services.
Only a day after Uber slashed its prices in the city, in order to make itself cheaper than an NYC taxi, Lyft is making its own big announcement: this coming Friday, at 7pm local time, the service is launching in Queens and Brooklyn.
I gotta say, for a kid from Queens (Flushing pride!) this is really awesome news, because as the company noted, getting a cab in the outer boroughs is not merely hard, it is pretty much impossible. As is getting a train that will take you between the two boroughs, even though they are on the same freaking island!
"Brooklyn and Queens are vastly underserved by public transit options compared to the rest of New York City," said Lyft. "In fact, just one of New York’s 23 subway lines passes solely between boroughs, and 95% of taxi pickups happen in Manhattan or a local airport."
That would be the G train, though you can also take the J or Z train from Jamaica. But the point still stands: Lyft is looking to fill a big hole that has existed for a long time, and one that Uber has also tried to fill for the past couple of years.
As good as this news is for residents, I would not expect things to go smoothly for Lyft, at least not if Uber is any example for how the city is going to react to it.
Uber first attempted to launch a taxi service in New York City in September of 2012, but ran into trouble from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, causing it to shut down operations in October.
In early December, though, the Commission voted to allow a year long pilot program that will let people in New York to use their phones to connect with yellow cab drivers. It wasn't until June of last year that e-hailing services like Uber were officially allowed to return to New York City when a judge struck down a temporary restraining order on that e-hail pilot program.
“All of Uber’s current transportation options meet TLC requirements for licensing, insurance and driver screening. Due to TLC regulations Uber does not currently have a ridesharing platform in New York," an Uber spokesperson told VatorNews. "If regulators embrace ridesharing with a relaxed approach to licensing and enforcement with other companies, Uber will be excited to launch our ridesharing platform soon in the state of New York.”
Lyft seems to already be trying to head off regulators somewhat, by playing up that the service is actually stricter, and carries a higher insurance policy, than regular cabs do.
"As always, safety is our top priority and every driver has undergone a screening process that is more stringent than what’s required for NYC taxis, including a strict background check, vehicle inspection and $1,000,000 insurance that provides more than three times the $300,000 minimum for taxis," said Lyft.
It even put up a whole chart comparing itself to taxis and black cabs already in operation, with a higher driver are requirement, and screens for convictions of DUI or reckless driving.
Whether that does anything to help Lyft in its fight against regulator obviously remains to be seen.
Anyway, its still the people who live in New York City who will benefit: they will receive two weeks of free rides.
(Image source: beatleslane.tumblr.com)