Those looking for an alternative to local taxi service rejoiced this week when invites to a “launch party” by the popular ridesharing service Lyft showed up in their inboxes. But officials at the company say they need to gauge whether there’s enough interest in the service locally before they decide whether to launch in Kingston as part of a statewide rollout this summer.
“We want people’s first experience [with Lyft] to be a good one,” Adrian Durbin, director of communications for the San Francisco-based company, said Wednesday, May 10. “We want to ensure that there’s a certain level of service anywhere we operate.”
Ridesharing companies like Lyft and their main competitor Uber use independent contractors, who drive their own cars and set their own hours, as drivers. Drivers are linked to passengers by a location-based smartphone app. Features in the app allow users to choose the type of ride they want, rate drivers and determine how far away their ride is payment is handled automatically via the app.
Legislation included in the state budget this year will allow the ride sharing companies to operate in Upstate New York for the first time starting in July. And while it is near certain that the companies will operate in big cities like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, it is unclear whether smaller more rural communities like Ulster County will see the new service.
Durbin said for Lyft, the decision whether to operate locally would depend on whether the company could sign up enough drivers and potential passengers. The “launch parties,” Durbin said, are intended to educate local residents about the service and recruit drivers. Durbin added that people interested in bringing Lyft to Ulster County should download the app to give the company a better idea of how much interest there was in the area.
“We are working aggressively to recruit as many drivers as possible,” said Durbin. “And we want to get a sense of what the demand is.”