New York City residents will finally be able to add Lyft to their transportation options on Friday, July 11, when the peer-to-peer ride-sharing service launches in Brooklyn and Queens. The Lyft app, which the company says has already been downloaded and opened by 75,000 New Yorkers, will go live at 7 p.m. that night.
The announcement comes a day after Lyft’s biggest rival, Uber, which already operates in New York, announced that it is cutting prices on its UberX service by 20% in New York for a “limited time.”
The New York launch is Lyft’s largest to date by far–the company has hired 500 drivers in Brooklyn and Queens, whereas launches in the other 67 cities where Lyft operates have typically started with 50 to 100 drivers. “We’re starting in Brooklyn and Queens because the outer boroughs are vastly underserved by public transportation and taxi options,” Lyft representative Erin Simpson tells Fast Company. “Ninety-five percent of taxi pickups occur in Manhattan or at the airports, and only one subway line travels between the boroughs without going through Manhattan.” (That would be the notoriously poky G train.)
Lyft has produced a video, “Why New York City Needs Lyft,” to detail the unique reasons New York City needs ride-sharing. Interestingly, the first boroughs highlighted in the video as underserved by other forms of transportation are the Bronx and Staten Island, which are not included in Friday’s launch. Presumably, the company hopes to increase demand in those boroughs in order to expand after launching in highly concentrated Brooklyn and Queens.
Simpson says there are plans to expand to Manhattan, but there is no firm launch date. When Lyft launches, drivers will be able to travel from the outer borough service areas into Manhattan or other boroughs, but will not be able to pick up in Manhattan.
While New York’s size and density makes it a natural market for the company, Simpson says that’s also why Lyft waited so long to launch in the city. “Now that we’re in 67 cities, we’ve been able to scale our operations,” she says. “We wanted to launch in NYC and be able to keep up with huge demand.”
The company is also emphasizing the diversity of the large new cohort of drivers entering Lyft’s part-time workforce. “You have a lot of people in the outer boroughs who have full-time jobs or other sources of income and are really looking for a way to help make ends meet,” says Simpson. “We have a New York firefighter, a mother going back to school who runs youth organization to help teens discover art, an MTA maintenance worker paying off student loans. And a space suit designer.”