April 03, 2019 03:41 PM Lyft launches pooled-ride service

Lyft has rolled out a pooled-ride service in New York that aims to undo some of the damage the company has suffered from new regulations while potentially cutting congestion.

On Wednesday the company said that Shared Saver—Lyft's "most affordable shared ride service yet"—had launched here following its introduction in Denver and San Jose in February.

In exchange for a cheaper fare, users will have to walk a few blocks to their pickup point. Their destination will be a short walk from where they'll be dropped off.

The model is essentially the same one pioneered by Via and introduced in New York in the fall by Uber as its Express Pool service. The short walk at each end of the trip allows the service to figure out the most efficient route for the greatest number of passengers taking a pooled ride.

There is an added benefit to Shared Saver in New York: The city's congestion-pricing surcharge, which is levied on trips in Manhattan below 96th Street and ordinarily adds $2.75 to a ride-hail fare, drops to 75 cents per rider if the trip is pooled.

The lower cost is in effect even if the pooled trip ends up with only one rider.

Lyft could use the help of a lower-priced service: It is currently suing the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission over new minimum-wage regulations that the company says have led to higher fares and decreased ridership.

According to Lyft's announcement, drivers will be paid the same as they are for standard rides "while benefiting from the increased demand for riders."

The congestion-pricing surcharge is also eating into hired-car ridership, according to taxi industry representatives and driver groups, which have been fighting the state-imposed fee. (Both Lyft and Uber support the congestion-pricing fee for policy reasons and say that they ultimately will benefit from less congestion.)

Taxi groups have decried the 75-cent congestion fee on pooled rides, saying it gives the ride-hail operators an advantage and is open to abuse, as it applies whether or not the rides are actually shared. Taxis are charged $2.50 per ride under congestion pricing.

"Shared Saver is a real step in helping New York City further address traffic and congestion by promoting shared rides through the city's congestion zones," said Ann Ferracane, general manager for Lyft in New York and New Jersey, in a statement. "And by ensuring rides are more dependably affordable, we're also able to better serve New Yorkers on a fixed income or living in the transit deserts of the outer boroughs, creating a fairer transit system overall."

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