Lyft, an American-based ride-hailing service and rival of Uber, has chosen Toronto as its first international launch city — pitting the two apps in a head-to-head battle for both drivers and riders alike.
The new player in the neighbourhood, which Lyft officials said will begin operating by year’s end, is expected to boost competition in an area where ride-sharing services are now mainstream.
“We see we’re typically at parity in terms of wait times and pricing with the competition,” Lyft general manager Tim Houghton told Global News.
“But where we really differentiate ourselves is based on experience and how we treat our passengers and our drivers.”
Houghton said their company invests in the “driver community,” which leads to “a kind of a happier” base of drivers and passengers.
“We also know there’s a ton of demand for ride-sharing in Toronto,” Houghton said. “Over 50,000 people have downloaded the Lyft app this year alone but haven’t been able to use Lyft in Toronto because we’re not here yet, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re really excited to come to Toronto.”
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Houghton said the service will be available in the Greater Toronto Area from Hamilton to the west and Oshawa to the east. Lyft officials also maintain all municipal regulations will be followed.
“We’ve worked really closely with regulators to ensure we’re compliant with all local requirements,” Houghton said.
“We’ve worked with the City of Toronto to make sure we have our licence. We’ve worked with the licensing and standards office to get our licence.”
After much criticism from the taxi industry and government regulators, the City of Toronto voted in 2016 to permit ride-sharing services like Uber to operate legally under new rules and licensing requirements.
The new vehicle-for-hire bylaw includes criminal background checks, review of driver abstracts, a check for vehicle inspection certificates and insurance.
According to Lyft, drivers — who are independent contractors — are also allowed to drive for multiple ride-hailing services at the same time.
Uber Canada told Global News they welcome the competition as it encourages the use of more transportation alternatives.
“More options can help reduce congestion and pollution as consumers increasingly make the switch from driving their own car to using shared mobility services,” Uber spokesperson Susie Heath said in an email statement.
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“Driver partners are able to use multiple ride-sharing platforms,” Lyft spokesperson Daniel Moulton said in an email statement to Global News.
“What sets us apart is the Lyft experience. When we’re at parity with the competition on reliability (how long it takes a car to get to you) and affordability (how much that ride costs), we differentiate through providing an exceptional experience. For both drivers and passengers.”
Launched in June 2012, Lyft operates in approximately 300 cities across the United States.
Houghton said Lyft may expand elsewhere in Canada but their immediate focus is on making the service work in Toronto.
“We’re really focused on making sure that our Toronto launch is successful as possible,” Houghton said. “We want to get it right, here, before we go elsewhere.”
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