Lyft Line is working, but carpooling to work isn’t.
The ridesharing company this week suspended the carpooling service it had newly launched in March. Though the initial announcement around Lyft Carpool is still online, lyft.com/carpool now redirects to Lyft’s main home page.
Lyft Carpool allowed drivers to earn up to $10 per trip (and up to $400 per month) by picking up a rider along their regular route to work. Riders paid between $4 and $10 per trip. Everything else about the service worked in the way Lyft normally does, with algorithmic-based matching of riders and passengers, trip reminders, ratings, and messaging.
A spokesperson for Lyft confirmed the news for VatorNews:
"In March, we started testing a scheduled carpool product in a small corridor of the Bay Area. Today, we are pausing that test. While we think a scheduled carpool feature is the right long-term strategy, it is too soon to scale to a meaningful level where supply matches demand. We learned a lot and will apply it to new and existing projects -- like Lyft Line -- as we drive our vision forward to solve pain points in commuting."
Though the statement above carefully represents Lyft Carpool as a “test,” the original announcement had been a bit firmer about the service being a new product launch. The service had simply launched in the Bay Area first with service in additional cities planned later on. In the Bay Area, Lyft had partnered with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and its 511 Rideshare program.
One report says not enough drivers signed up for the program for it to be viable. In other words, it was the classic chicken-and-egg situation of supply and demand. I asked Lyft if they could share figures around how many passengers and/or drivers had used the carpool service, but they declined.
Lyft isn’t the only ridesharing company to have explored commuting services. Its primary rival Uber had launched a commuting service in China (UberCommute) last year, though it’s unclear how successful that service had been or whether it had expanded to other regions. Besides, Uber technically won’t be operating in China anymore once Didi Chuxing completes its acquisition of the China business.
Like Lyft, Google-owned mobile navigation app Waze also launched a carpooling service in the Bay Area this year, and that was clearly represented as a test program from the very beginning. Another key difference was that the program wasn’t designed to make money for drivers, though riders were to split the cost of fuel. Additionally, Waze planned to work with specific companies, including UCSF, Adobe and Walmart Global eCommerce, to limit the pool of its test.
Over email, a spokesperson for Waze told me the closed pilot is "thriving." That said, the company said it isn't committed to any plans for expansion.