New Lyft carpool service tackles miserable commutes

The maddening rush-hour commute is an all too familiar experience for many in the Bay Area.

A new service from Lyft promises to help. Starting today, Bay Area commuters can use the ride-hailing app to arrange carpools along 101 between San Francisco and Palo Alto. Participants can save on gas and use the carpool lane, making the trip more affordable and efficient than driving alone, according to a Lyft blog post.

Lyft Carpool matches one driver and one rider who commute along the same route. Prices for the rider are fixed between $4 and $10, and drivers can make up to $5,000 a year using the carpool service. Drivers and riders can rate each other and communicate through the app using secure messaging, according to Lyft.

The carpooling service stems from Lyft’s recent partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s 511 Rideshare program, which provides carpooling services and resources for Bay Area commuters.

“The unused seats in most drivers’ cars represent the biggest untapped source of transit capacity in the Bay Area,” Melanie Crotty, MTC’s director of operations wrote in the Lyft blog post. “We see the partnership with Lyft as a great way to harness both technology and brand identity to put that capacity to work.”

The new service is a continuation of efforts by both Lyft and Uber to become a daily option for commuters. Lyft Line and UberPool offer similar carpooling options, but those services generally target riders traveling within San Francisco (or Oakland, or the South Bay) and can get pricey for long commutes.

There’s a big market for technology that promises to ease commuter road rage. A 2013 U.S. Census Bureau report listed the Bay Area at the top of its “mega-commuter” list, reporting that about 4 percent of workers in the Bay Area endure morning commutes of at least 90 minutes. The data includes San Francisco, the Peninsula, the East Bay and Santa Clara County.

Lyft says it will expand Lyft Carpool beyond 101, and possibly into other metropolitan areas, as interest grows. Commuters can sign up here.

Image: The Lyft app, showing the new Lyft Carpool service. (Courtesy of Lyft)

 

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