Lyft will once again allow passengers to share their trip with strangers from next week, when the service was suspended more than a year ago due to a pandemic, the company announced today. Shared rides will be available in Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver starting Monday, July 19, and will be followed by more markets “in the coming months.” That’s good news for anyone looking for a cheaper or more environmentally friendly way to make a trip in a private rental car.
While shared rides return, they do so with some social distance restrictions. Drivers and passengers are still always required to wear masks, and eating or drinking is prohibited while traveling. Split rides are also limited to two riders who must keep the front and center seats empty to maintain distance. Drivers and passengers have the option of canceling trips without penalty if other riders do not follow the rules.
Lyft also adjusts how shared rides work to make them more predictable. Passengers now have the option to book a joint ride up to half an hour in advance, which Lyft says will help “better take drivers in the same direction on the most efficient route.” Routes, pick-up and pricing are confirmed in advance, and the further the trip is booked in advance, the cheaper it is, Lyft says.
While it is unclear how many passengers will be comfortable sharing trips with strangers, even if Lyft’s security measures are in place, dog trips are seen as an important way to reduce the environmental impact of riding services like Uber and Lyft. One study last year, published before the pandemic took effect in the United States, said such services produce about 69 percent more climate pollution than the modes they replace, and recommended electric cars and caravans as a way to mitigate this. Although Lyft rejected the report as misleading, it said it encouraged the use of shared trips.
Uber and Lyft suspended their aggregation service in response to the March pandemic. But as Lyft moves to re-introduce sharing, UberPool’s future is less certain. Business Insider recently reported that it may return in an “unrecognizable” form in an effort to make it more profitable. Discounts for shared trip use could be reduced from 50% to 20%, and the service may only be available at certain locations or at certain times of the day. At least in one market in Australia has seen the return of UberPool, suggesting that it will not disappear completely.