San Francisco-based ride-sharing service Lyft is expanding its service beyond U.S. borders for the first time, and launching in Toronto, it announced on Monday.

Delivering on-demand taxis to riders that summon them with a mobile app, Lyft will compete with Uber, along with the traditional taxi system. Lyft is currently on the search for drivers, who can apply via the mobile app, and plans to start operating in time for the holidays, according to a blog post on its website.

Lyft chose Toronto as its first city for international expansion in response to the demand for the service, Lyft General Manager Tim Houghton told the CBC’s Metro Morning program in an interview. Fifty thousand people in Toronto have downloaded the Lyft app already, yet unable to use the service.

“We’ve really worked hard with the city regulators to comply with the regulations they came up with for ride-sharing last year,” he said. “It’ll be great for users to have a choice.”

Houghton refers to the City of Toronto’s digital solution implemented in the Spring of 2016 after city council voted to bring Uber and other private transportation companies under a legal framework. The solution is facilitated in part by SAP Business Intelligence, and implemented after months of policy-making work involving different stakeholders.

Toronto’s Municipal Licencing & Standards (ML&S) division engaged global experts on the issue and collaborated with innovation hub MaRS. It held a Sharing Economy Forum in October 2015 there, and produced further study from the institution that helped inform policy.

Today, almost all transportation company licences are issued automatically by the city and can be turned around in 24 hours, seven days a week. Licences are also now digital with the creation of an e-licence, which is the first of its kind in Canada, allowing drivers to display it to police from a mobile app.

In his interview with Metro Morning, Houghton avoided naming Uber directly. But he positioned the firm as a company that has a values-based culture. Uber has been in the news this year for allegations of sexual harassment and faced a drawn-out legal battle between its board and its former CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick.

“We differentiate ourselves on diversity and inclusivity,” Houghton said. “It comes down to who we are as a company and what we value.”

Lyft will be holding events for its drivers in Toronto and makes efforts to treat its drivers well, he said. But they are not considered to be employees.

“We do a lot to listen to drivers and make sure their needs are met,” he said. “Happier drivers make happier passengers.”

Pricing hasn’t been finalized for the service in Toronto, he told Metro Morning, but expect it to be comparable to other options.

 



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