Lyft: The End of Shared Rides

I frequently travel in places and situations where public transit isn’t useful, especially in the transit-poor United States.  So I’ve been a frequent user of Lyft, a shared-ride competitor of Uber.  It was an easy choice.  Although the Lyft and Uber products are the same — often provided by the same cars and drivers — Lyft’s founders were credibly supportive of public transit, so their basic branding, “Uber with a conscience” or “Uber but nice” was pretty much directed at customers like me, although I had no illusions about where the ultimate profit motive would lead them.

One virtuous thing that Lyft attempted was shared rides.  For a lower fare, you could get a ride that would also pick up someone else along the way.  This would reduce VMT and provide lower fares for fare sensitive folks, though still much higher than public transit fares.

I used this service once.  On a departure from the airport, it paired my trip with one in a substantially different direction.  The other trip was to a point further from the airport than my destination, and yet it served that trip first.  I ended up with a travel time about twice what my direct travel time would have been, and much more than the app had estimated.  I never used this option again.  My impression was that they were overselling the product in contexts where it wasn’t appropriate, and they were offering the same discount to the person dropped off first — whose trip is exactly what it would have been if traveling alone — as to the person whose trip was being made much longer.

Drivers apparently hated it too, judging from many of the comments on this Reddit thread.  They didn’t pay drivers enough to deal with the hassles, including customers not understanding the rules and poor relations between strangers sharing the car.  Now, Lyft has abandoned shared rides, although Uber appears to be planning to expand them.

But shared-ride products are still needed, especially when demand appears all at once in high volume.  A common scenario: A plane lands at a small-city airport at midnight.  A line of 100 people ends up at the taxi stand.  Taxis are programmed to carry single parties.  In this situation I will usually poll the people around me in line to see if anyone shares my destination, which may be likely if it’s a downtown hotel.  But we must then present ourselves to the taxi driver as a single party, or they will charge us more.  It’s remarkable that in this particular case, late night airport to downtown, there isn’t a workable solution.  Because while it can be a pain to have another person in the car, it would be even better to get to the hotel at 1 am instead of 3 am, and a small town with 17 taxis and a few Lyft cars is not going to serve us all very quickly if it insists on serving us all separately.

Of course, there should really be a bus to downtown meeting this late-night airplane, but planes are late a lot, and transit agencies can’t devote a bus to meeting an unpredictable arrival time.

If you are not a traveling businessperson like me, this may all sound very “first world problems” to you, but there is a lot of VMT in carrying a bunch of people from an airport to the same distant cluster of hotels at the same time, all in separate cars.  I’m disappointed Lyft couldn’t focus this product on that problem, grouping people only when their destinations were very close together, and thus creating a product that both customers and drivers could be believe in.

46 Responses to Lyft: The End of Shared Rides

  1. intjonathan May 26, 2023 at 11:17 am #

    I used shared Lyft a lot for commuting pre-COVID, and always found it useful. The detours usually were quick and it was still faster and more comfortable than a comparable bus ride – useful if I missed the bus and still needed to make a meeting.

    It sounds like their destination matching was not great in many context. Sorry to hear that, as you’re right – it’s structurally a great idea.

  2. David Bickford May 26, 2023 at 12:59 pm #

    I never found the concept of shared rides appealing for the same reason that I find duplexes to be the least appealing housing option. There are times when I prefer to be alone and times when I prefer to be in an anonymous crowd. The options in between are less appealing. One smelly, strange, or noisy person in a bus or train full of passengers isn’t nearly as disconcerting as having to share the close quarters of the back seat of a car with one person with any of those characteristics.

    • Pablo Abad May 27, 2023 at 8:25 pm #

      I am a Lyft driver. I found shared rides to be effective to the riders. I realized the experience you had. But, when I drove this types of rides that seemed to be efficient. I never had the experience of dropping passengers of opposite ways. My issue with shared rides is the lack of respect some people have for others and i found to be uncomfortable for especially women to share a ride with a guy trying to flirt or listening to inappropriate comments. Many time i had to stop people from engaging on that type of behavior. I also thought shared ride were not appropriate for airports, since passengers may have multiple pieces of luggage and may not have enough room to accommodate two or more riders at the same time. I believe Uber or Lyft didn’t provide enough information about the ride to the user. I think is a great idea from the ride share provider to stop offering those type of rides.

    • T L May 28, 2023 at 6:05 pm #

      It is terribly inefficient. I am a driver for Lyft, and this, due to other glitches with the algorithm, along with our pay being reduced involuntarily via a new contract last December, after removing the fuel surcharge from our pay (are they still charging passengers?), personally as a 35-40 hpw driver began losing > $400/month.

      I asked Lyft’s driver support team via the app how the new CEO in April was going to help us. Just blown off stating they would escalate it to another department. Thank you for being a Platinum driver, blah, blah, blah. So, I got onto the driver platform on my laptop. Sent a similar request. No response. So they really don’t care about us as drivers either. All they care about is whether or not they are making money.

      Now it’s May and there’s another new CEO, and Lyft is considering accepting bids for someone to buy out the company. So after two and a half years and something ridiculous like over 3,300 rides and as a former Platinum driver, they could care less about us.

    • Lizzy Lane May 28, 2023 at 11:01 pm #

      LOL! I own and rent out a duplex… this is HILARIOUS to me!! 😆

    • Ilyas May 29, 2023 at 6:21 am #

      As a driver whom I drive in Toronto Canada,
      For me Lyft is nothing more than scam, however you read some of the drivers feedback. Let’s put ourselves to everyone shoes. First of Lyft share was a very unsuccessful policy which 99% of drivers who knows about the prices and rights they hated, the reason if two deferent people goes to the same direction which is of course always they always match that way, the poor driver only making one dollar extra to pick up and the rest is if it is 1 person or 6 individual only same Time + distance applied one time however Lyft charge same amount with no discount every single person. Second, since they have remove the surge price to the drivers only however in the peak time they still charge the same surge amount or even sometime more than Uber does. For example in a busy weekend morning around 2 am I got a call of Lyft XL around 25km and 30 mins, the costumer was happy that I pick their call and I was also happy to drop them and go home. I asked them how much they got charge she said ,” $185 Canadian dollars” think how much I got only $55 now someone tell me how can I be loyal to this company that stealing big time.there is alot more horrible things that Lyft doing to the drivers that costumer never know. A very failed policy makers in Lyft platform and failed company that soon or later going to go bankruptcy.

  3. John capecci May 26, 2023 at 6:52 pm #

    I have been a real professional of a real taxi cab for 25 years. I have what I consider a very good reason for not putting two strangers in a backseat of my car at the same time. This is already a dangerous enough job without making it more so you do not know these people and it’s very rare to find two people that actually do want to share a car. Furthermore I believe that a line of 100 people long in the middle of the night at an airport is an exaggeration.

    • Joy May 30, 2023 at 7:54 pm #

      Isn’t that the beauty of the ACTUAL taxi industry though? Real people, dispatching out local rides in an area that’s comfortable to the passenger. Real consequences too if you don’t give adequate service. I understand the appeal of lyft and uber in very urban, very unsaturated settings, but for the situation at hand, there will never be an adequate alternative. The majority of uber/lyft drivers ate the onion in one whole bite and then chewed with a smile on their face all while trying to force the tears back in pride. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it’s a rideshare gig that pretends to be doing YOU a favor by giving you the gift of putting as much as possible on the line with the least return value, then yes, you’ve been had, whether you’re ready to admit it yet or not.

  4. RossB May 26, 2023 at 7:20 pm #

    It’s funny because an “airporter” is one of the most common types of shared, variable timing, variable route forms of transportation. They arrange ahead of time who they will pick up, and where. Traditionally, it was all done by hand. This is why I find the whole idea so funny, as one of the key arguments for various forms of microtransit is that “the computers will figure it out, and it will thus be more efficient”.

    Yet it isn’t. Or at least, it isn’t especially efficient. Part of the problem is that it never truly overcomes the strengths and weaknesses of an airporter. Trips that occur during busy times are bound to be more expensive, as it causes the agency to hire more drivers, and buy more vans. Late at night, you have the opposite problem, in that there are very few trips for the driver (and a deadhead). Even the instant-pizza-delivery model that leverages those willing to drive at odd hours (at a moments notice) isn’t enough to make up for it. Then you have the geography. Yes, you should have been dropped off first, but that likely would have meant a bit of a delay for the next person. Public transit has economies of scale that these sorts of systems just can’t match. If you are willing to walk a little bit, or make a transfer, they become much cheaper per rider.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for this sort of thing, when there are very few trips being taken. It would not surprise me if it reappears, but leveraging a more traditional taxicab system. Uber and Lyft had two differentiators: they had a nice app, and they hired drivers on the fly. The latter has limits, while the former can be recreated with software that uses traditional cabs. Sharing a cab would be a relatively easy add-on, especially from the airport.

    • Sunil May 28, 2023 at 6:19 am #

      There is nothing new in this article. In this capitalist set-up you get what you pay for. And not business ideas fly.

  5. Zef Wagner May 27, 2023 at 9:01 am #

    This is a good example of the perils of “micro-transit” which you have written about so well. Any on-demand shuttle service is going to have to pick up multiple people on its way somewhere for it to make sense, but that creates a ton of uncertainty about how long your trip is going to take, and the services can’t accurately predict that for you. Whereas fixed-route service fixes that problem by running on a regular schedule, and asking people to travel a short distance to get to the fixed-route service. That gives you a much more accurate sense of how long it will take. I think what this Lyft experiment showed is that most people are not willing to save a small amount of money if it means less predictability in travel time.

  6. J.D. May 27, 2023 at 7:24 pm #

    If you ever wonder why there are so few Lyft or Uber cars available. I have been driving for 6 years. Right as covid was loosening up, Lyft and Uber got together and made an illegal pact. Drivers made 80% of the fair, now we make 40%. How many people would still work for any company that cut your pay by 50%? They both suck

  7. Chaz May 27, 2023 at 8:11 pm #

    Taxi’s have always allowed shared rides in every city ove been too. Oh yeah, because of Uber and Lyft, many taxi companies are going under. Would be nice to just get back to jailing a taxi and being taken to where you want to go without having to arrange something with an app.

  8. Nadine May 27, 2023 at 8:16 pm #

    I feel that Should offer there Loyal customer free rides.Am using their services most of the time and am good tips but never does Lyft offer me any awards in feel this not the way you should treat your customers.

  9. Steve May 27, 2023 at 8:18 pm #

    Bottom line is the driver does not get paid enough. Forget all the other reasons. More pay for drivers.

    • K Cooney May 30, 2023 at 4:46 pm #

      Since I use Uber or Lyft so rarely ( only on vacation ) I tend to overtop the drivers as it doesn’t seem to be a a decently paid job. 💕

  10. Bryan Fullerton May 27, 2023 at 11:36 pm #

    I drive Lyft and have used shared as a passenger. I used shared because I knew there was only a small chance that I would have to share the ride which I wouldn’t want to do. As a driver I had many passengers that felt the same way. Picking up a second passenger can kill a good conversation really quick. And heaven forbid one bring three friends when he told the app it was for one. It happened and it wasn’t pretty.

  11. Zach B May 28, 2023 at 2:48 am #

    Let me just say I agree with all the comments to a degree. I’ve both driven for Lyft in the past and used the service as a passenger, driven on shared rides and even shared a ride once. For the most part, when I was a driver of the shared rides, most of the passengers destinations were fairly close another but as the experience in the article, the one time I shared a Lyft ride from the airport and it was a horrible experience. My destination was to be second and was almost 30 mins from the first drop-off. Lyft could have and should have invested more time in making ride shares more feasible. I’m a computer programmer myself, and I honestly think lyft could have generated software that would ensure for example, each passenger must be within a certain amount of miles of one another and put a mile limit from drop A to drop B.

  12. D.J. May 28, 2023 at 3:08 am #

    I’m an Uber driver and I feel Lyft did the right thing by canceling shared rides. From a driver’s standpoint it was awkward to say the least. Picked up a woman who turned out owned 4 cats and boy did she smell like it. Very Very strong cat odor. Took me 20 minutes to air out and fumigate the car on the side of the road after i dropped her off. Imagine if another passenger had to share the ride with her. The situation would of went south very fast. Goodbye and good riddance to shared rides. Now I hope, wish, pray that Uber will cancel shared rides also.

  13. T.M. May 28, 2023 at 4:35 am #

    I’ve only used the shared ride system for short trips and it was never as bad as your experiences. In fact, most of the time i was dropped off first. A few times i lucked up and was in the car alone.for the same shared ride fare. Either the rider cancelded or noone picked up a ride during that time. Although the latter was not the case most of times, it was nice when it happened.
    Living in a large city some.tend to save where they can. However, I have always been leary of using the shared ride system for trips to the airport. I never wanted to mess up my streak of luck with ride.sharing. In other words, there were times when I was willing to pay more to get what I needed. With that being said, I don’t think I’ll probably ever use ride sharing for trips to.the airport.

  14. Derek May 28, 2023 at 4:36 am #

    Cheap people only do share rides

  15. Sydney Schwartz May 28, 2023 at 6:03 am #

    Never had an issue w Lyft

  16. Shahzad Aslam May 28, 2023 at 6:43 am #

    I worked 3 years for lyft but they deactivated my account permanently. This is not fare.

  17. Steve May 28, 2023 at 7:20 am #

    As a Lyft driver, I have never enjoyed shared rides, and would never accept them after my first few. I am not a rookie, and have more than 2200 rides under my belt. Shared rides are unsafe. Passenger A could be a nurse going to work at a hospital, and passenger B could be an intoxicated man going home from a bar. I already have so much to do as a driver following gps instructions, paying attention to safe driving in traffic, listening to passenger’s stories and woes,.like a bartender, and just get them safely to their destination in Las Vegas. I can’t do all of that, and also have to say things to passenger B, like “sir don’t touch her”. “Don’t talk to her”. “Sir, please get out of my car right now”. “Sir,.you are on camera”. It’s too much, and unsafe.There should never have been shared rides. Completely unsafe.

  18. Louis May 28, 2023 at 7:56 am #

    Never liked it, it is unconfortable and awkward, 2 completely strangers in the back, something is not right and prone to dangerous encounters. Cabs charge extra for more than one rider and for extra luggage and already have a surcharge for airport pickups. But mr lyft and Uber dont, this makes our rides completely inefficient and more wear and tear and gas usage. I picked a woman traveling by herself with 5 extra large luggage, if i leave them to load their stuff they will not take in consideration the care they must have with others property scratching or damaging car paint, so that means i have to handle that amount of luggage with excess of 80 punds each. Bound to injuries. Ride share totally unacceptable.

  19. John Waters May 28, 2023 at 8:08 am #

    I will never use lyft. My credit card had a free lyft pink subscription and my wife and I needed a ride from a hotel to Raleigh Durham Airport. It was about a 10 minute ride. It was an early pickup, 3:15 in the morning and the hotel shuttle didn’t run that early. I booked the ride a week in advance and got a message that it was picked up by ‘Frank’. We were up at 2:45, I got a message my ride was on the way. At 3:05 I received a message …. unfortunately we had to cancel your ride. That was it. No other explanation. I will NEVER try to book again.

  20. Rita esposito May 28, 2023 at 8:27 am #

    Yes I frequently use lyft

  21. Scott Wardle May 28, 2023 at 11:09 am #

    I expierience Lyft and know that it only takes credit or debit card to install on phone app on peoples phones that they make from that app store itself. The people in it are nice but the tips are fine to see how well theyve done but at the same time they take longer to pend in ones bank account for a little while but I would rather take a taxi cab that takes money like cash for example or change thats really genuine realky showing you paif it in person instead of online so that the Government or the state can’t track your information on your bank accounts of money, of where and how it is being used to track everyone down on their systems. Its time to use cash again and not some rideshare company that wants to take more out our pockets and empty dry our bank accounts with our debit cards that can take more money for their own share and charging us more money than meets the eye here. It’s time to give these share companies up for good because they are trying to steal more money from us.

  22. ayoub hilal May 28, 2023 at 12:26 pm #

    you know it’s frustrating how they can just suspended your account with no real reason and destroy families income that became dependent on thos type of job . no support for the drivers no protection they don’t even care to investigate absolutely anything, they take always the customer over the driver every time . In conclusion I believe the share ride business should either seize to exist if there not able to be at least just not even fair .

  23. Julie Warren May 28, 2023 at 1:34 pm #

    I don’t understand the statement of strangers sharing rides? What is a Taxi or a Bus then? It’s literally the same dang thing. We have lost our minds being so entitled as a society. Smh.

    • Johnny June 3, 2023 at 1:38 am #

      There’s a very big difference. Normally there are plenty of riders in a bus, and if not you can choose to sit where you want, you’re not forced to sit next to a creep.

  24. Donna T May 28, 2023 at 3:11 pm #

    The one time I used Lyft back in 2018 was to go to the airport. We were more than halfway to the airport when the driver exited the freeway saying he had another fare to pick up since this was a shared ride. We went back way past my house by several miles to pick up the other passenger. By the time I finally got to the airport, the plane had already boarded and I was rushed to the gate to get on just as they closed the door. I have not used a ride share since and never will again.

  25. Eric May 28, 2023 at 3:26 pm #

    I can see two issues at play here.

    1. Your impression of Lyft having a “conscience” or that they are “nice” is what they want you to think. Lyft as a company is about as dishonest as can be. At the end of the day, Lyft will follow the money, whether it’s direct profits or whether the product will increase the value of the company on paper. Lyft’s transit orientation was to deceive politicians into embracing their services in cities where public transit was already at capacity pre-pandemic.

    2. Your airport experience was a chicken or the egg problem. You and the other rider were probably the only ones to request a shared ride at that time. Your experience was the result. This in turn causes people to reconsider shared rides causing a negative feedback loop where the poor experience results in reduced demand which further causes such experiences. Most people looking for transportation from an airport have been traveling and are tired and want to get where they need to go quickly.

  26. Robert Morris May 28, 2023 at 4:51 pm #

    As a driver, I stopped serving shared rides when I picked a woman up for a 30 minute ride 2 hours before she needed to be at a job interview. She was 15 minutes late. She didn’t say anything until she burst into tears getting out of the car.

  27. Dennis May 28, 2023 at 6:01 pm #

    I drive for Lyft and Uber (5 1/2 yrs now) full time, 20 to 22 hours a day, 6 days a week. The business “Model” is sound and works great, the problem is the people running the service (greed). From my metropolitan area they want to pay on average $10 00 to go to and from the airport, even though the distance is well over 20 miles, that sucks. The passengers constantly tell me what they paid, money I never see, just a fraction of it. Why does Lyft get more of the payout than I do, why is that legal? Pay the driver’s a “fair” share and you will get swamped with drivers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on demand. It’s that simple.

  28. Scott May 28, 2023 at 6:12 pm #

    Lyft and Uber pay their drives crap, so as a driver I would not want to do share rides unless I am getting double the fare. These companies rip both the drivers and riders off.

  29. Andrew Vanbarner May 29, 2023 at 4:07 am #

    It seemed to me that we had virtually all of our transportation issues sorted ages ago. Manhattan’s subways were nearly spotless and safe just a decade ago. Buses whisked one from JFK to Grand Central. Rental cars were readily available. Uber or Lyft could be summoned in nearly any major city in minutes.
    This was of course back in those halcyon days when one could fill up a sensible sedan for $60, and eggs were a dollar a dozen. I remember purchasing a serviceable, used Mercedes E class for less than $25k, and livable homes were less than $500k near most of the larger cities.
    Policy decisions, particularly fiscal policy decisions, directly affect people’s lives.
    Irresponsible fiscal decisions create actual, real problems that go well beyond slightly warmer winters. We’re now living in a creaky, fractious, divisive dystopia of dangerous cities, expensive groceries, and authoritarian policymaking.
    Vote for truly responsible, sober minded legislators and leaders. Then you won’t have to be crammed into the backseat of a hired car with a smelly, unpleasant stranger.

  30. Patrick May 29, 2023 at 6:20 am #

    Rent a car, dude, if ur gonna whine about how long it takes to get to ur hotel.

  31. Ilya Petoushkoff May 29, 2023 at 6:32 am #

    >>planes are late a lot, and transit agencies can’t devote a bus to meeting an unpredictable arrival time.

    24-hour service between the airport and the downtown is what helps!
    But there has to be a downtown where people would likely need to go.

    • Chris May 30, 2023 at 9:32 am #

      And if the drivers know how to get there. One time I landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and my taxi driver didn’t know how to get to downtown Baltimore. Another time I landed at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York and my taxi driver had never heard of Northern Parkway (a major street less than 1 mile from LaGuardia Airport).

  32. Alina Hill May 29, 2023 at 5:07 pm #

    I hate Lyft I drove for them for almost 7 months before the shutdown with 5 stars and drove close to 1,300 people and when one of the customers tried to steal my car and crashed Lyft wouldn’t fix. Lyft doesn’t care for the drivers safety.

  33. Ron May 31, 2023 at 8:43 am #

    Shared rides to/from airports used to be big business at larger airports with companies like SuperShuttle, but this business pretty much disappeared with the pandemic. Initially it was over health concerns and depressed travel demand; however, with health restrictions mostly gone and general travel demand pretty much back to normal, I’m curious why shared airport rides aren’t coming back.

    • asdf2 May 31, 2023 at 8:36 pm #

      Even before the pandemic, I’m sure the shared ride airporter services were losing lots of business to Uber. These services cost nearly as much as an Uber private ride, but they are very unpredictable both in terms of how long you have to wait and how long you have to spend winding through other people’s stops once you finally get on.

      For those that really want an in-between option – one that is cheaper than Uber all the way, but faster than transit all the way, a hybrid trip where you take public transit out of the airport and private-ride Uber the rest of the way home from a transit station, is usually the best option, and almost always works better in the time/money tradeoff calculus than a door-to-door shared-ride service.

      • Kevin Leui June 2, 2023 at 12:33 am #

        I operate a shared ride shuttle service, in Rapid City South Dakota. Been in business for over 30 years. I operate about a dozen vans. Lyft and Uber came in in 2017. Growth was flat in 2018 and 2019.
        2021 came and I foresaw things to come. The vaccine came out, rental cars were 3-400 dollars a day.
        I bought a small bus and prepared for the rush. 2021 was 20% better than my best year. 2022 beat 2021 by 30%. 2023 is so far 40% up from 2022.

  34. Rod Stevens June 4, 2023 at 2:17 am #

    When I first moved to Bainbridge, we had one taxi company with two or three cars meeting the ferries. The owner of the company divided the rides into “north” and “south”, everybody gave the driver their destination at once, and the driver worked out the sequence so that he could get back in time for the next boat. it worked really well, with not much more than a 15-minute premium for the extra stops. Yes, it was longer, but that was the price of going home.

    That all went away when the owner retired, and it became up to the individual drivers. They didn’t have the knowledge of the backroads to adequately map out the routes. They gamed how full they could stuff their cars, versus sharing with the driver going the other way. Riders, knowing they might get shorted, would hop in the car and encourage it to drive away before others came. My point is that true “community” can exist, but it takes someone to oversee it, and once the reciprocity begins to break down, it’s every person for themselves.

  35. Wai Yip Tung July 5, 2023 at 3:43 pm #

    Shared ride can be a great option for some of the reasons you’ve mentioned. Sadly, it was wrecked during COVID, like so many things that was shared. Now it get so hard to build it back. For it to work, you need a robust demand to create opportunities for matching. (your experience sounds like a worst match). This mean low price with minor increase in traffic time for the rider. But the price need to be high enough incentive for the drivers. As you have observed, drivers hate this. It is a tough balance. Lyft quits trying. A promising option is extinguished.