Lyft Is Offering Residents in 35 Cities Hefty Incentives to Ditch Their Cars

Participants will get credit for Lyft and other mobility services.

byStephen Edelstein| UPDATED Sep 26, 2018 3:19 PM
Lyft Is Offering Residents in 35 Cities Hefty Incentives to Ditch Their Cars

Last month, Lyft challenged 100 Chicago residents to ditch their personal cars for one month, offering $550 in credits for Lyft ride-hailing trips and other mobility services so participants could still get around. Now Lyft is expanding this "ditch your car" challenge to 35 more cities.

The expanded list of cities includes New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., but the basic idea remains the same. Participants must prove they own a car, and then put away the keys for the duration of the challenge, which runs from Oct. 8 to Nov. 6. They'll get a certain amount of credit (it varies by city) to be used for Lyft trips, bike and car-sharing services, and public transit.

Lyft is in a pretty good position to offer a viable alternative to car ownership, at least in some cities. Its purchase of bike-sharing company Motivate gives Lyft control of bike-sharing operations in many U.S. cities, so it can offer that option alongside ride-hailing. Lyft is also working on e-scooter sharing, albeit at a slower pace.

Relying on ride-hailing could cause major congestion problems in cities. A recent report by transportation researcher Bruce Schaller found that even carpool services like Lyft Line and UberPool can substantially increase traffic, in part because they encourage commuters to abandon public transit. In an interview with The Verge, Lyft president John Zimmer said the ride-hailing industry is still too small to be blamed for the rise in traffic. 

But while ride-hailing companies like Lyft and rival Uber are relatively young, they have already made a big impact on transportation. Ride-hailing is no longer a novelty for city residents. Cars displaying Uber and Lyft logos are now a common site on the streets of most major U.S. cities. The industry will need to embrace alternative forms of transportation or face increased regulation such as New York City's recent move to cap the number of ride-hailing vehicles on its streets. Making ride-hailing the default choice may not be sustainable for Lyft or the cities in which it operates for long-term benefits.