Lyft adds NYC subway info to app, even as it fights with city
Lyft Inc. wants its riders in America’s largest city to know that they might not need to take a Lyft. They can take the subway.
Over the next few months, Lyft said users of its app will be able to access real-time public transportation information in New York City. The move marks another twist in the ride-hailing industry’s fraught relationship with New York, which is both home to the world’s most heavily used public transportation network and the site of a history of legal tussles between the companies and city officials.
The app update shows users the locations of nearby subway and bus stations, as well as docks for Citi Bike, the New York bike-share program operated by Lyft. The features are part of a bid to keep users engaged on the platform, rather than navigating away to a different app for subway or bike information. It’s a calculated bet that more info won’t tempt too many people to take the train instead of calling a Lyft.
Lyft has begun rolling out the update gradually. All New York users will receive the new features by the end of September, the company said. “Lyft’s mission is to provide the world’s best transportation, and that definitely includes public transit,”said Lilly Shoup, the senior director of transportation policy. In cities like New York, public transit can be faster and more convenient than driving, she said.
While Lyft will provide riders with up-to-date subway arrival times, the company doesn’t have a formal partnership with the city of New York. Riders will still need to swipe their MetroCard to access the subway.
The new offerings may serve to endear Lyft to New York’s lawmakers, who have recently passed new rules targeting the ride-hailing industry. City officials have been vocal critics of the company and its competitors, saying they have driven down driver wages and worsened traffic. Lyft sued New York this year in a bid to prevent the implantation of a new driver minimum wage law, but a judge dismissed the suit in May.
The addition of subways and buses is a step for Lyft toward its ultimate goal of being an all-encompassing transportation service. Both the company and its larger rival, Uber Technologies Inc., have told investors they want users to remain on their apps no matter the mode of transit. As they geared up for their initial public offerings this year, both touted their respective integrations with other subway systems and public transit services.
Uber said recently that it had sold more than 1,200 bus and train tickets in Denver as part of a partnership with public transit there. Lyft already has public transportation data in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, the company said.
The two companies have also moved aggressively into bike-sharing. Lyft’s acquisition last year of Motivate, the operator of Citi Bike, gave it a massive fleet of bicycles in New York, with plans to expand to 40,000in 2023. Meanwhile, Uber has a fleet of 400 electric Jump bikes in the Bronx and Staten Island.
Lyft said integrating more services into its app is a natural step, particularly because many journeys involve more than one mode of transit. “One of our busiest Citi Bike stations is the one outside Grand Central,” Shoup said. “We can really expand the effectiveness and the reach of transit.”