In massive expansion, Lyft promises to serve 72 percent of U.S. by year’s end

Lyft is coming to 100 new cities this year — expanding its coverage area by 50 percent, the ride-hailing company said Thursday.

That means the San Francisco-based startup will provide its app-based service to 231 million people across the U.S., or 72 percent of the country. To start, Lyft already has launched in 40 new cities, including some in Central California.

While passengers living in ride-hailing deserts may be rejoicing over the news, some Lyft drivers meanwhile are complaining about fare cuts. The company recently emailed drivers in some places warning them that their pay would be cut by 1 percent, according to ride-hailing blogger and driver Harry Campbell, who runs TheRideShareGuy.com. But larger cuts were reported, he wrote, such as in Orange County, where the per-mile rate dropped from $1.15 to 90 cents.

Lyft has been competing in a price war with much larger rival Uber for some time, cutting rates and alternately offering incentives to both drivers and passengers. It’s been an expensive fight for both companies, and neither is making money. Usually Uber cuts its own rates first in January, Campbell wrote, prompting Lyft to respond in kind. This year, Uber has yet to make such a move.

“I was pretty surprised by the cuts since in the past, when Lyft has cut rates, they’ve told drivers they were only doing it because the competition was also cutting rates,” Campbell wrote in his newsletter last week. “I’ve always been a fan/supporter of Lyft, but it seems like they are becoming more and more like Uber.”

That’s not a compliment.

In a survey of 1,150 drivers from across the country this month, Campbell found Lyft drivers are happier than Uber drivers — almost 76 percent of Lyft drivers reported being satisfied with their driving experience, compared to 49 percent of Uber drivers. Lyft drivers also reported making more money.

Lyft has traditionally been seen as a friendlier alternative to Uber, which critics have accused of valuing profits over people as it moves toward an apparent goal of world domination — and its controversial CEO Travis Kalanick hasn’t helped the company’s image.

But Lyft may be taking a page from Uber’s playbook these days. Earlier this month someone with knowledge of Lyft’s plans let it slip that the company is hoping to expand internationally — an about-face for the startup that previously had shown little interest in growing beyond the U.S.

Photo: Susan Palmiter of Oregon puts her luggage in the trunk of a Lyft vehicle she hired at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

 

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