Lyft has said one of its goals is to help solve transportation issues for people. Now, the ride-hailing company appears to be putting its money where its mouth is.
Lyft President John Zimmer announced Wednesday that the company is expanding its Relief Rides program, which gives people free trips during natural disasters or crises. It's pledging $1.5 million over the next year to extend the free ride program to low-income people and veterans who need transportation for things like job interviews and doctors appointments.
"People need help beyond times of crisis," Lyft wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "There are those with acute transportation needs every single day."
Compared with the larger and better-funded Uber, Lyft has long been the underdog in the ride-hailing world. But, as Uber has been trying to dig itself out of the multitude of scandals that hit it over the last year, Lyft has cast itself as the nice guy in the industry. This has helped Lyft earn more riders and drivers and allowed it to make gains on its rival.
Lyft launched in dozens of new cities across the country over the last year and is now nearly as ubiquitous as Uber in the US. It's currently available in all 50 states, as well as Canada. Ridership is also up. Lyft said it gave 375.5 million rides in 2017 — that's 130 percent more than 2016.
Lyft isn't the only Silicon Valley company that says it aims to do good. Helping out in crisis situations is somewhat of a trend within the tech world. Facebook has a crisis response tool where people can get immediate information on a disaster situation, while Google often shows what's happening with crisis and disasters in its maps. And Airbnb has chipped in by giving free housing to people in crisis situations and to refugees and relief workers impacted by the Syrian war.
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Besides its Relief Rides program, Lyft has done other measures with aims of being a good corporate citizen. It gave free trips to the March for Our Lives protests against gun violence and last month it made a multi-million dollar pledge to offset carbon emissions caused by car exhaust.
For its Relief Rides program, Lyft gave people free trips to shelters and hospitals after hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida last summer. It did the same after wildfires struck Northern and Southern California last fall. Lyft also offered free rides to blood donation centers after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
It's unclear how to get the free rides if you're low-income or a veteran. Lyft said it will work with local and national organizations to identify the needs in certain communities.
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