Sixteen months after suspending shared rides, Lyft announced Thursday that it’s bringing back its lower-priced carpooling option.

What You Need To Know

  • Lyft announced Thursday that it’s bringing back its lower-priced carpooling option, which was suspended in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit contact between strangers
  • Starting Monday, shared rides will again be available in Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver, and the company has plans to expand to additional markets in the coming months
  • Lyft also has revamped the service, including offering discounts to customers who schedule rides up to 30 minutes in advance and eliminating unexpected route changes and surprise pickups
  • Uber said Thursday it will explore launching its own carpooling option "when the time is right and will follow the guidance of health experts"

The ride-hailing app stopped offering shared rides in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit contact between strangers.

Starting Monday, shared rides will again be available in Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver, and the company has plans to expand to additional markets in the coming months.

Lyft also has revamped the service. Riders will have the option of requesting a shared ride as soon as a driver is available or scheduling one up to 30 minutes in advance. By requesting a ride ahead of time, Lyft will be able to better match riders going in the same direction to improve efficiency. Scheduled rides will be discounted — the more advanced notice, the bigger the savings.

The change is also expected to result in less downtime and increased earnings for drivers, Lyft said.

The company is also getting rid of unexpected route changes and surprise pickups during shared rides. When customers request a ride in advance that is labeled “no surprise pickups,” the route will be fixed.

"As the country reopens, we want our most affordable ride option to be available to our riders,” Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer said in a post on the company’s blog. “After a year and a half without Shared rides, people are going to love the updates we've made – no surprise pickups, knowing your full route before you get in, and a new option to book ahead."

With the pandemic still not over, Lyft is continuing to take some public safety precautions with its shared rides: All riders and drivers must wear masks, shared rides will be limited to two riders to help maximize physical distancing (the front and middle seats will be kept empty), and eating and drinking are not allowed.

Lyft’s top competitor, Uber, also suspended its carpooling option in March 2020. When asked Thursday if Uber has plans to resume its shared rides, a company spokesman told Spectrum News: “We’ll explore re-launching Pool when the time is right and will follow the guidance of health experts.”

The company already has relaunched a version of the service in Australia.

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