Ride-share service Lyft to launch in New York

A Lyft user.
A Lyft user.
Boston Globe—Getty Images

Ride-sharing service Lyft plans to launch operations in New York City on July 11, the company told Fortune Tuesday.

Lyft’s initial service area will be in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, which the company cites as parts of New York City with high demand for its service due to a dearth of public transportation options.

“We always launch with a specific portion of a city in mind,” said John Zimmer, Lyft’s co-founder and president.

The company chose these two areas based on their affordability and accessibility, Zimmer said, adding that there’s a “huge opportunity” for providing more service, especially with 95% of taxi pick-ups happening in Manhattan, or at local airports.

The startup has prepared a fleet of 500 cars for the launch — its biggest to date, according to a company statement.

Lyft will face stiff competition in New York. On Monday, rival ride-share company Uber cut the price of its UberX service line in the city by 20% — a “temporary” move that makes Uber’s lowest-cost service cheaper than New York City yellow cabs.

Still, Zimmer sees a strong desire for the Lyft service in New York: Over 75,000 people in the city opened the service’s app since the company’s 2012 launch in search of a taxi even before anything was offered, indicating high potential demand.

But working with the city’s Taxi and Limo Commission isn’t always easy. Zimmer says that while they’ve “seen across the country varying degrees of regulatory pushback,” they were “even more proactive” ahead of the New York City launch. “We reached out to them over a month ago,” he said. “The approach is to be as collaborative as possible.” Zimmer also cited Lyft’s safety regulations for drivers, which requires $1 million liability insurance as compared to the city’s $300,000 minimum.

Lyft lets customers book rides from a network of vetted drivers, who pull up in cars with fluffy pink moustaches attached to their fenders. Payment is made in the form of a donation using the Lyft smartphone app.

Founded two years ago by Zimmer and CEO Logan Green, Lyft has opened in 67 other cities in less than two years. Overall, the company has raised $330 million, including $250 million in April 2014 led by Coatue Management, Alibaba, and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point. Existing investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Mayfield Ventures and Founders Fund.

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