June 27, 2016

Lyft Launches Ride-hailing Services In Charleston Area

Liz Segrist  /  Charleston Regional Business Journal

Another ride-hailing company has come to Charleston.

San Francisco-based Lyft launched services in the area Thursday, according to its website. Users can get a ride by downloading the transportation app, adding a payment method, entering pickup and drop-off locations and requesting nearby drivers. At the end of the ride, users pay through their phones and rate their drivers.

Lyft operates similarly to its competitor Uber, except Lyft customers can tip their drivers via the app.

Lyft has raised more than $2 billion thus far. During its latest $1 billion funding round, $500,000 came from General Motors. The companies are collaborating to develop software for self-driving cars.

Lyft is also in the middle of a legal fight. The company recently agreed to pay $27 million to 163,000 of its current and former drivers in California as part of a class action lawsuit, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and Reuters. The drivers want to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors, making them eligible for reimbursement for expenses, such as gas and car maintenance.

Entering the market

Uber laid the regulatory groundwork for app-based transportation companies to enter the Charleston market.

After launching operations in the state in summer 2014, Uber was the center of numerous debates among legislators, city councils, airport boards and regulatory agencies.

In early 2015, the S.C. Public Service Commission sent a cease-and-desist order to Uber for operating without the necessary permits. That decision was soon reversed and Uber was granted a temporary license to operate following pressure from area tech companies and Gov. Nikki Haley.

In summer 2015, a law was approved allowing "transportation networking companies" to operate in the state and be regulated.

In February, the Charleston County Aviation Authority also approved such companies to pick up and drop off passengers at Charleston International Airport. Although app-based transportation operations were already allowed in the state, airport boards have to approve their own transportation regulations to comply with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.