As part of its Los Angeles launch , Lyft led a parade of cars donning fluffy pink mustaches on their front bumpers through the streets of Santa Monica during the lunch hour today.
Launched by SF-based Zimride, a provider of white-label online ridematching services, Lyft markets itself as an alternative to a cab and positions itself as the next step in the ongoing evolution in ridesharing.
People can arrange for rides with Lyft drivers in minutes via a smartphone application. The application handles “donations” passengers give drivers in exchange for the ride. Drivers must pass background driving and criminal checks; they also have to carry sufficient insurance. Zimride allowed users to rate one another as drivers and passengers. Lyft allows for the same thing, and will never match a passenger with a driver he/she rated fewer than four stars.
Zimride provides ridematching services on L.A.’s Westside. In the fall 2008 UCLA agreed to offer its Facebook app to users with ucla.edu  email addresses. The following summer, UCLA upgraded to Zimride’s white label service, which opened access to non-Facebook users.
Zimride turned out to be more useful for arranging regular commutes and one-time long distance trips. How will Lyft find and meet the demand for impromptu around-town trips in LA? Furthermore, how will Lyft and the technology and behavioral changes it might prompt fit into policymakers and planners’ grander schemes for vehicle mile trip reductions? Will services like Lyft supplant fixed-route bus lines? Will so-called choice riders shift from modes like fixed-route transit and biking to this kind of peer-to-peer ridesharing? Or will it fill a void that it isn’t fiscally or logistically feasible for municipal transit operators to fulfill?