Spokane’s sharing economy grows with addition of Lyft and Uber

Popular in urban cities and now expanding nationwide, Lyft is a ride-sharing service whose drivers’ pink mustaches indicate that they are a member of the service. (PHOTO: inside.com)

Ridesharing services Lyft and Uber are coming to Spokane (and Coeur d’Alene). Lyft launched this week and Uber launched a Twitter account in late April announcing its impending arrival. With sure-to-be-distorted or -misreported media coverage incoming, we might as well offer some clarity about what the two offer.

Lyft is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week ridesharing service whereby drivers apply to become drivers, and after background checks and driving history reports, are allowed to drive people under the Lyft brand and using the Lyft app. Once the destination is reached, passengers pay a “donation” using their debit or credit cards on the app, and Lyft takes a cut. Currently, rates for Spokane are $1.70 per mile, $0.40 per minute, $2.00 for pickup, and $1.00 for a “Trust and Safety” fee. There’s a $5.00 minimum, but as you can see with the rate structure, it can be somewhat difficult to calculate what you might pay to get to your destination without the app. Note that we’ll be one of the first fifty cities in the United States with Lyft.

Uber is a similar 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service utilizing its traditional taxi, SUV, town car, and “UberX” offerings. While UberX is similar to Lyft, it is distinguished by its controversial “surge” pricing strategy. “Surge” pricing essentially means that Uber jacks up prices by astronomical amounts during periods of high demand. Think Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Or downtown Seattle after a Seahawks game. In Spokane, I could imagine Bloomsday and Hoopfest falling under “surge” pricing. First Night. First Fridays, perhaps? It should be interesting to see how Uber implements this model in Spokane, especially given allegations that the company takes drivers off the road during these “high demand” times.

Notably, the two services will be launching at similar times, but given Spokane’s taxi-averse culture, it should be interesting to see how residents respond to the services. Local taxi companies are frustrated that licensing law doesn’t account for these new and innovative services, but it should be noted that that’s what these are: innovative new services. It’s refreshing to see startups like Lyft ($333 million in VC funding) and Uber coming to Spokane as a part of their early nationwide rollout.

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