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Lyft expands Ottawa-area ridesharing coverage west to Arnprior

In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft driver opens the Lyft app on his phone while waiting for a fare in Pittsburgh.
In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft driver opens the Lyft app on his phone while waiting for a fare in Pittsburgh. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

Two years after launching in the city of Ottawa, ridesharing company Lyft is expanding its coverage west into neighbouring Arnprior in the Ottawa Valley.

As of Monday night, residents in Arnprior can use Lyft to hail a rideshare to another part of town or into the national capital. According to the Lyft, the company is the first ridesharing service to operate in Arnprior.

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Several factors spurred the company’s decision to widen its coverage beyond Ottawa’s city limits — including Arnprior’s lack of local public transportation, Rob Woodbridge, Lyft’s general manager for Ottawa, said in an interview Monday afternoon.

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On top of that, many of Lyft’s local drivers live in the Renfrew County town and were driving into Ottawa to work, Woodbridge said — although he couldn’t specify how many.

“We know that there were enough of them … that it kept on coming up, so we just decided, ‘Look, we’ll let them work where they live,'” he said.

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Demand for rides from Ottawa to Arnprior would also take drivers out of the city with no way to bring them or other customers back, the Lyft manager said.

Previously, Lyft’s coverage in west Ottawa only extended to the western edge of the suburb of Kanata, according to Woodbridge.

“I think we’ve almost doubled the size of our coverage around the city of Ottawa,” he said.

Lyft’s arrival in Arnprior was announced at the local council’s meeting on Monday evening.

According to Woodbridge, the town approached Lyft about growing its operations in Arnprior and the company has been working towards doing so since mid-2019.

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In a Lyft news release, Mayor Walter Stack said the council is “thrilled” to welcome the ridesharing service to town, noting it gives residents another option to get around — particularly during the wintertime when overnight street parking isn’t allowed.

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“The need for alternate transportation options in Arnprior has been a key priority identified in the town’s strategic plan, so not only are we thrilled to welcome a new business to our community, but are also fortunate that it assists us in providing affordable transportation to our residents and visitors alike,” Stack said.

Lyft first launched in the city of Ottawa in March 2018. Towards the east, the company’s coverage extends to the community of Rockland, about 40 kilometres away from downtown, according to Woodbridge.

Arnprior is about a 68-kilometre drive west from downtown Ottawa.

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According to Lyft’s news release, Arnprior drivers will have access to a support centre and community space for drivers at the company’s offices in Ottawa.

Asked whether Lyft has any plans to expand further into the Ottawa Valley, Woodbridge said: “Not right now.”

“But certainly the hope is to, where there’s a community in need of transportation, for us to be able to help,” he said.