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Lyft expands beyond US: a second ridesharing company arrives in Toronto adding to controversy with Taxi operators

Popular ridesharing company Lyft recently announced plans to expand beyond US borders and into Canadian territory… more specifically, Toronto.

“Our passports are packed and we’re crossing the border,” read the statement on Lyft’s blog. “From brunch in Bloordale and belly laughs on Mercer St to polishing off some late-night poutine at your favourite burger joint out in Woodbridge, we know Toronto is the place to be.”

 

Lyft is expanding to Toronto amid controversy from Taxi operators and strong rivalry with Uber.

 

A Mutually Beneficial Move?

The company has high hopes for the move, with Lyft co-founder John Zimmer stating that he expects Toronto to become one of the company’s five largest markets.

CapitalG partner David Lawee, feeling just as hopeful, stated, “Ridesharing is still in its early days, and we look forward to seeing Lyft continue its impressive growth.” Lyft has obtained investments from companies such as General Motors and Rakuten.

Lyft General Manager Tim Houghton viewed the expansion as a natural one. “When we thought about launching internationally, Toronto was a no-brainer for us,” he said. Over 50,000 Toronto residents have downloaded the app, which Houghton believes is a sign that people are branching out from taxi services and other platforms like Uber.

Houghton also promised to meet the unique needs of Toronto’s citizens, stating, “Right now, we feel that we are at the right stage as a company, where we can do Toronto justice, and what that means is really studying the market to make sure we understand Toronto’s transportation needs, working with regulators to make sure we’re compliant with all local regulations, and really that we are a good partner.”

 

Lyft will have to contend with not only well-entrenched rival Uber but also Taxi drivers.

 

Stiff Competition

The ride-sharing platform obtained a license from the city of Toronto on November 13th, and the company is currently finalizing prices, which are expected to be comparable to other platforms and similar services.

Uber responded to its competitor’s expansion with an emailed statement, which read in part, “More options can help reduce congestion and pollution as consumers increasingly make the switch from driving their own car to using shared mobility services.”

 

Taxi operators are strongly opposed to Lyft and Uber. The ride-sharing programs do not have the same unfair burden of fees, background checks and licensing.

 

Not-So-Positive Reception

Beck Taxi’s operations manager Kristine Hubbard was not so receptive, saying, “We’re trying to get cars off of our main arteries and prioritize mass transit. Here we are with Uber that has 30,000 cars lined up. Now we’re going to potentially introduce that many more?” She also fired back at city council, stating that Municipal Licensing and Standards has yet to fulfil its commitment to produce a report examining changing traffic patterns after Uber’s arrival. She referenced the King Street pilot, a project aimed at prioritizing streetcar service and reduce carbon pollution, questioning why the city would contradict these efforts by bringing more vehicles to town, “just cruising around looking for fares.”

 

As a city, Toronto is more interested in encouraging public transit than ride-sharing, which does less to reduce congestion.

 

Tracey Cook, executive director of Toronto’s municipal licensing and standards department, had the following rebuttal: “The city has many priorities, and one of those is ensuring that the public has access to safe, regulated transportation services. People having a variety of transportation options is a component of reducing congestion on our streets.”

Residents of Toronto can look forward to having access to the platform in mid-December, just in time for the holidays.

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