Lyft Launches - And Unlaunches - in NYC

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lyft, that ride-sharing startup, was set to launch in  NYC until the city threatened to seize their cars for operating without a livery license. John Zimmer, co-founder and President of Lyft, discusses his efforts and what comes next.


John Zimmer

Comments [16]

Margot from New Jersey

When I heard this as a podcast, I kept hoping that someone would bring up the financial incentive that New York City has to keep a service like this from emerging--as well as TLC's significant interest in protecting their investment.

Planet Money did a great story on the cost of taxi medallion in NYC:
Apparently, the right to drive a taxi can cost up to a million dollars, and the city was looking at increasing the number of taxi medallions in order to cover its bills or just generally to raise money. If you do bring someone from TLC in, I would really appreciate it if you would ask him/her about this financial incentive on the part of the city, or the financial investment that TLC has made into these taxi medallions, which they lease out to their drivers.

Jul. 18 2014 10:52 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

The only reason why TLC is against Lyft is because their drivers don't have to go through the same tests and training they had to according to law, which they find is unfair.

Jul. 17 2014 09:43 PM
Nadia from NYC

Re: sharing. Agreed that the distinction is important. This blog post from Bandwagon, the NY taxisharing company, makes clear the distinction between ridesharing and taxis:

Maybe Lyft's kind of ridesharing might be better described as rideselling? Either way, ridesharing and taxisharing *is* a real thing... see what Bandwagon is doing (

Jul. 17 2014 11:58 AM
fuva from harlemworld

What's the void being filled here? Please. Don't taxi drivers have it bad enough? Seems like just another assault on the working class.

Jul. 17 2014 11:52 AM
Joey from Brooklyn

Just a matter of comparison - San Francisco has "homobile" which operates in very much the same principle, but it spreads by word of mouth and mostly (tho not exclusively) for the lgbt community. If you're drunk late at night or got mugged and don't have any money, you can still call them and they'll drive you home (or hospital) for free. Otherwise you pay with how much you can afford, knowing that part of whatever you give them goes eventually to others who will need their help in the future.

Jul. 17 2014 11:51 AM
Gus Smith from NYC

I'm black and I live in Manhattan and this doesnt happen to me personally. However, my firends who live in North Manhattan Brooklyn or Queens are greatful for Uber because they can get picked up, everytime. If the cabbies treated all riders fairly maybe they would get more symphapthy from all New Yorkers.

Jul. 17 2014 11:50 AM
martha r from GPT

Allison is right….not peer-to-peer, but gypsy cabs.
This is fee for service, even if not a set fee.
All kinds of things that start as can't-we-all-get-along routinize into exploitation .
And the drivers , of this and Uber, will ultimately be the losers.

Yes, I heard a racial call in the ad you played.

The owner of Uber, the Lyft competitor, has boasted of the plan to destroy the taxi industry in the various cities it has launched.

People need to think: Are you willing to destroy working-class and immigrant jobs, for what feels like convenience and fake friendship. We should be able to have yellow taxi apps to deal with the question of ease of booking.

Jul. 17 2014 11:50 AM
CCVIP from Manhattan

Does Lyft have an app that's accessible for visually impaired people?

Jul. 17 2014 11:50 AM
Charles from Morristown

This is one of a long string of companies coming from the west coast VC world that fancy themselves as being "disruptive". In reality, I think we're mostly talking about young and naive (and greedy, because that's a positive value in that world) Randians who feel that all the regulations on taxis and car services (why don't these folks license themselves as black car services?) are oppressive, and the way to "disrupt" that is not to follow normal channels but just to do whatever they want. Couple this with a strong "power to the people" PR front and you get nominal (and uninformed) public support.

Lyft is particularly interesting due to their insistence that this is "ride sharing" rather than a ride for hire. Sharing would imply the driver was already going to your destination, but the cash incentive here pretty much means the driver is going where you want to go, as long as they are paid for that trip.

Look a little deeper, and you'll find most of these companies that pride themselves on being "disruptive" are basically anti-government folks who'd rather make a buck off a broken system than fix it.

Jul. 17 2014 11:48 AM
Allison from NYC

Thanks Brian for reading my comment. I do think it's important to use the right language when discussing these types of companies that facilitate these types of micro-businesses. It's important to frame the discussion properly.

Also, I'm not sure the guest understands what it's like to live in Queens or Brooklyn. It's not like the drivers out here are the best when it comes to following traffic laws.

Jul. 17 2014 11:48 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

These taxi start-ups sound so naive to me. I would much rather take a yellow cab or car service in NYC; who cares about having a friendly driver? I care about efficiency, safety, and proper training and insurance. This sounds inappropriate for a city like NYC.

Jul. 17 2014 11:47 AM

missing an obvious followup: they call call it a "suggested donation" to skirt law that would make this a taxi service ... but if the reader sez, "no, thanks. i won't pay you anything." then the driver can then rate you negatively, and the rider won't get any more rides.

Jul. 17 2014 11:45 AM
Martha from NYC

So I can just not pay anything at the end of the ride if I choose to?

Jul. 17 2014 11:44 AM
MC from LIC

On the race question about cab access: could it also work the other way, in the sense that many black passengers complain of not being able to get a yellow cab (and often rely on private services for this reason)?

Jul. 17 2014 11:38 AM
Jack from Manhattan

Only $1 million liability? This is New York City, you silly boy.

Jul. 17 2014 11:36 AM
Allison from NYC

I don't understand why this type of service, where a person rents their belongings to a stranger, as "sharing". Let's call this what it is. It's NOT sharing. It's just a business transaction, albeit a micro-business transaction. There are no employees, no overhead, etc. Far fewer people would do this without a monetary incentive.

Jul. 17 2014 11:32 AM

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