Lyft brings ride share service to Addison County

MIDDLEBURY — The popular rideshare company Lyft last month began servicing areas of Vermont, including 13 of Addison County’s 23 towns, along with Burlington and Montpelier. While Uber, another app-based rideshare company, has made its way to Vermont’s biggest cities, Burlington, Montpelier, Killington and Rutland, Lyft is the first to service Addison County.
Bill Cunningham, regional transportation director at Addison Country Transit Resources, said this additional transportation option would be welcomed in a rural state like Vermont. He said the Lyft car service would probably be complementary to ACTR’s bus service by providing transportation for that “last mile.”
With a bus service, he said, “you drop them off at the bus stop and the question is how do you get them home. Some people walk, some people ride their bike. Now there is this (Lyft).
“We’re in mass transit, they are more for individual transit,” Cunningham added.
Lyft, the fastest-growing ridesharing service in the country, can be found in more than 300 U.S. cities, and Lyft spokesman Campbell Matthews notes that the company has been successful in rural areas similar to Vermont.
The service is expanding into Ferrisburgh, Starksboro, Monkton, Bristol, New Haven, Middlebury, Weybridge, Addison, Panton, Waltham, Vergennes, and parts of Cornwall and Bridport.
“We are always looking to expand into markets where there is demand for ridesharing, and after seeing and hearing demand for Lyft in the area, we were very excited to launch last week,” Matthews said.
In addition to ACTR’S public transportation and carpooling options, Lyft’s introduction to Addison County offers residents a flexible transportation alternative to owning or using a personal motor vehicle.
Middlebury College junior Julien Souffrant doesn’t have a car. Hailing from Charlotte, N.C., where he uses Uber and Lyft frequently, Souffrant said Lyft is a welcome addition to the already-available transportation options in town, especially when he needs to get to the airport.
“It’s very hard to get a friend to drive you at 5 o’clock in the morning to a flight,” he said.
And while he uses ACTR often, the bus times don’t always line up with his schedule.
“I think, in terms of social life,” Souffrant continued, “it wouldn’t really do much, because most parties are on campus. But most people are inherently lazy, so they don’t want to walk, even to close restaurants. I think that would also be an asset to Lyft — profiting off people’s unwillingness to walk short distances.”
If Middlebury students, or anyone else, do use the app to socialize, it could potentially make Addison County safer. A national study of ridesharing services from Western Carolina University in North Carolina concluded that the programs have reduced alcohol-related driving arrests by up to 51 percent, and DUI deaths by more than 10 percent.
To use Lyft, riders download the app to their mobile phone, create an account, then set their location and destination. Riders can click a button to view a fare estimate before committing to ride. (A ride from the Addison Independent on Maple Street in Middlebury to the Bobcat Cafe in Bristol costs between $22 and $32, depending on traffic, and a Lyft ride from Middlebury to the Burlington airport would cost approximately $60.)
Once riders press “request Lyft,” they are assigned to the nearest available driver. Riders can see how far away the driver is, and they can contact the driver to give specific pick-up instructions.
When the car arrives at the rider’s destination, riders pay, then rate the driver between one and fives stars. This security measure lets the company know how the driver performed. Riders who rate the driver three stars or below are not placed with that driver in future Lyft rides.
Similarly, drivers rate riders upon the conclusion of the ride. All drivers can see how riders have been rated, which gives them the chance to turn down a ride request if a rider has been rated poorly.
Lyft’s user-friendly interface adds to its convenience factor, which is what gets Souffrant most excited about the app.
“It would definitely make my life a lot easier,” he said.
Additional reporting by John S. McCright.

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