Ride-share platform Lyft launches its pink-mustachioed cars in St. Paul today

Categories: Transportation
Lyft_GlamDoll_scottmeinzer.jpg
via @scottmeinzer
Lyft's pink mustache makes an advance appearance outside Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis.
If you start seeing ordinary cars with pink mustaches affixed to their fronts around town, you're not hallucinating. Lyft -- the ride-share start-up known for turning anyone with a car into a cab driver -- launches today in St. Paul.

See Also:
- Uber, the car service for techies, launches in MSP

Imagine, you need a ride and cue up Lyft's smartphone app. One of Lyft's drivers -- maybe an office commuter en route to start the day downtown, or a folk musician with hours to kill -- sees the call, and picks you up in his or her normal ride (plus the signature Lyft car 'stache). Once you reach your destination, Lyft's app suggests a fee and facilitates payment, and then you and your driver rate each other so that other users can gauge your experience.

"We started with the idea of being able to fill those empty seats in cars and let people be more efficient," says Lyft spokesperson Erin Simpson. "The challenge with something new is explaining to people what this is and what it isn't."

Whether the Lyft model sounds genius or bizarre probably depends on whether you're already familiar with similar peer-to-peer services, like the room-rental site Airbnb. Lyft knows that many people's initial response to such services centers around safety questions, and the company is quick to point out that it has a $1 million liability insurance policy for drivers, and that its drivers have to pass phone and in-person meetings, vehicle inspections, and background checks.

Despite these precautions, Lyft, like competing ride-share start-ups Uber, GroundLink, and SideCar, has often tangled with regulators and cab companies across the country.

In St. Paul, however, licensing laws don't prevent ride-sharing: vehicles only need to have a taxi license if they have a meter. In advance of its local launch, Simpson says, Lyft worked with Mayor Chris Coleman's office to secure the city's blessing.

But in Minneapolis, where Lyft has not yet set a date for its pending launch, more regulatory hurdles may lie ahead. As the Star Tribune reported, current city ordinances require taxi licenses. For now, at least, Minneapolis riders will have to be content with picking up a Lyft in St. Paul and requesting a trip across the river.

News of Lyft's St. Paul launch comes in the same month that the one-year-old start-up hit its millionth ride, and on the same day that it's expanding into two other cities, Indianapolis and Atlanta, a move that brings its total markets to 10.

Lyft isn't alone in its success: Car sharing is booming. According to the industry website Venture Beat, Uber, which launched in the Twin Cities in October 2012, is now valued at $3.5 billion.

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18 comments
k2yeb
k2yeb topcommenter

Bring it on. Only a matter of time before big brother gets mad and tries to tax or regulate it though. 

Randy Brumm
Randy Brumm

I'm pretty sure their marketing will include "Who wants a mustache ride?".

Sarah Huntley
Sarah Huntley

I have my own car but I would drive someone maybe

phabby
phabby

I wouldn't classify Uber as car-sharing at all. It's a luxury taxi option. 

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

best idea ever. taxis are impersonal and scare the crap out of me. there is no customer service with most taxis. i love the idea of getting paid based on perceived value.

Aaron Lissarrague
Aaron Lissarrague

This is great - now I don't have to go onto craigslist to get stabbed. Most people don't trust a person with a moustache. Why would you get into a car with one?

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

I'll lead with I have zero issue with the ride share/car sharing model. Works just fine in Europe for those that live in the urban centers. 

But, is the pink mustache thing a launch marketing thing or are they going to be on year round? Just thinking in the middle of winter they're going to start looking like a dirty sanchez.

Jean Claude Cau
Jean Claude Cau

My mom warned me about getting into cars with strangers.

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

Heh, We see these pink mustaches all over San Francisco, thought it was a PRIDE thing...guess not.

Mark Witte
Mark Witte

Pink mustache rides. Five cents.

Jay Boller
Jay Boller

I love insufferable-looking cars!

brill029
brill029

An entire business model built around accepting rides from strangers?  I need an adult!

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

@Christine Brown Try Uber or a local car service. Every Uber I have taken in Minneapolis (7 or 8), the drivers have been AWESOME (same in SF and Chicago). We used Uber to get home from a ballgame recently, had two sleeping kids, driver saw this, ran to the stroller, broke it down, got it in the trunk, opened the door for my wife and had us on our way in half a minute. The worst thing is, the drivers won't accept tips...I kept trying to give this guy money, he wouldn't take it.

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