Lyft to tackle traffic at Outside Lands with music-themed vans

Lyft plans to launch 10 music-themed vans for the Outside Lands festival using the new Magic Mode feature in its app. (Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Starting Friday, more than 200,000 concertgoers will flock to the blowout music festival Outside Lands, in Golden Gate Park.

Though many San Franciscans look forward to rockin’ in the greenery all year round, equally as many San Franciscans in surrounding neighborhoods dread the festival.

It’s not because they don’t like Elton John or Amon Tobin. Year after year, these neighbors see cars backing up traffic for blocks and blocks around the festival.

“Traffic is about five times as bad as usual,” wrote one Richmond district neighbor in an email last year to the office of Supervisor Eric Mar, who oversees the district.

Another neighbor wrote of the congestion: “Every year it gets worse and worse.”

Now local tech transit company Lyft plans to solve the congestion headache — with karaoke.

Lyft is partnering with Outside Lands to introduce “Magic Mode” to its ride-hailing app in San Francisco. Originally piloted at the South by Southwest festival, Magic Mode lets users summon one of 10 vans which will be tricked out in different music genres — like rock or hip-hop – Friday through Sunday.

The goofy vans will be accompanied by a bevy of efforts by Lyft at Outside Lands to tackle the congestion problem, including 40 “Lyft ambassadors” directing riders to vehicles and signage pointing riders to designated pickup points.

Those efforts are aimed at reducing the number of rideshare vehicles circling around neighborhoods, and clogging the streets.

“Our goal is to have the least amount of congestion,” said Allen Scott, producer of Outside Lands. “It’s best for the neighborhoods, and best for the audience.”

But the vans are the star of the transportation show, Lyft said. One will feature karaoke, and another will let riders play the video game “Rock Band” onboard.

“Fun and whimsy have always been a part of the service,” said Ethan Eyler, Lyft’s senior brand manager. He should know, as he pioneered the iconic pink mustache people associate with Lyft. Eyler aims to tout similar whimsy while trouncing traffic.

The mode is thanks to a sponsorship by Paypal, and Pandora will be assembling specific playlists for the music genre-themed vans.

“I want you to feel like you’re in a throwback tunnel,” Eyler said.

There’s also a “surfer” van, which is decked out in wall to ceiling beach towels, inflatable palm trees and mini-beach balls, while Dick Dale tunes belt out guitar solos. Seven of the vans will match “genres”: Hip-hop, disco, rock, surfer, “boy bands,” EDM, bluegrass and even a “boy band” van.

In the boy band van, there are nods to New Kids on the Block and newer boy band One Direction, Eyler said. “Imagine a collage of your favorite artists … some signed N’Sync stuff, a tear-stained letter to a band.”

A look inside the "boy band" van. (Image courtesy of Lyft)

A look inside the “boy band” van. (Image courtesy of Lyft)

Silly as the vans are, they’re also a part of addressing congestion. This extra bump in capacity can ferry up to 2,100 people per day to Outside Lands, Eyler said.

Scott, producer of Outside Lands, said Lyft also pledged it won’t hike its “Prime Time” pricing structure, Lyft’s version of Uber’s infamous “surge.”

Prime Time kicks in when riders begin ordering Lyfts in a particular area in large numbers, multiplying fares to attract more drivers onto the road. At last year’s Outside Lands, news reports show Lyft’s rival Uber charged hundreds of dollars for a ride from Golden Gate Park to the Mission.

Lyft, however, agreed to cap Prime Time pricing at 200 percent.

As for other transit options, more bike racks will be available for the concert, as well as private shuttles. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will beef up buses, too.

According to the SFMTA, Muni will boost N-Judah service before the concert, NX Express Bus service after the concert, and 5R service for Outside Lands. Taxi stands and monitored bicycle parking will also be available.

Supervisor Eric Mar didn’t mince words when it comes to neighbor’s thoughts about Outside Lands traffic.

“I think some neighbors just want the concert to go away,” he said. “And of course I’d prefer for concertgoers to use Muni or bikes. But anything rideshares can do is a good thing, especially keeping the prices at a lower rate.”

Lyft tackling traffic is welcome, he said, adding “The more the merrier, to ease congestion.”

Lyft plans to launch ten specialized music themed vans for the Outside Lands Festival using the new Magic Mode feature in its app. (Michael Ares/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Lyft plans to launch ten specialized music themed vans for the Outside Lands Festival using the new Magic Mode feature in its app. (Michael Ares/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

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