Lyft — which may beat Uber in going public next month — is offering a new type of carpool service that it is calling its “most affordable ride,” but those savings may come at the expense of your patience. Riders who select Lyft’s new “Shared Saver” service in the app will have to wait a few extra minutes before being paired with a driver. After that, they’ll be directed to walk a couple of blocks to an optimized pickup location. Then, at the end of the trip, they’ll be dropped off a few blocks short of their final destination.
In a lot of ways, Shared Saver is similar to Uber’s Express Pool, which also involves extra waiting and walking. But unlike Express Pool, Lyft says Shared Saver won’t be subject to the fluctuations of surge pricing.
“With Shared Saver, you’ll never have to worry about surge pricing,” the company says in a blog post. “You’ll lock in the lowest prices, always — even when it’s busy. So you’ll always have a reliable way to get wherever you’re going, no matter what.”
Initially, Shared Saver is only available in Denver, Colorado, and San Jose, California, but more cities will be added in the coming months. Lyft wouldn’t say exactly how much cheaper Shared Saver is from its normal carpool service, but screenshots shared by the company seem to indicate a fare that is 25 to 30 percent less than the next cheapest type of ride. That’s not a firm calculation, though, as Lyft says that its prices vary by route and are based on time and distance.
Encouraging riders to take more carpool trips has been a core mission at Lyft for the better part of a year. Lyft was one of the first ride-hailing companies to offer carpooling, launching Lyft Line in 2014. Last year, Lyft changed the name to Shared Rides and set the goal for these carpool trips to account for 50 percent of all of its business by the end of 2020. That goal fits in nicely with its other predictions, such as road pricing to encourage more carpooling and ending personal car ownership in cities.
Lyft isn’t the first service to offer ridiculously low prices for less convenient, shared rides. There is the aforementioned Express Pool, which is typically 50 percent cheaper than UberPool and 75 percent less expensive than UberX. Ride-sharing service Via, in which short trips can cost as low as $5, operates in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC.
Lyft has been experimenting with asking customers to walk more in order to better optimization their trips for over two years. Likewise, the now-discontinued Lyft Shuttle used fixed routes and flat fares to essentially mimic a public bus system in limited tests in San Francisco and Chicago. (The service was widely mocked on the internet for failing to recognize its similarity to preexisting public transit.)