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New ‘Lyft Shuttle’ service may be direct competitor to Muni

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Lyft Shuttle, a new offering by the ride-hail company, could undermine public transportation in San Francisco. (Courtesy Lyft)

A new service by ride-hail company Lyft may be in direct competition with San Francisco’s Muni transit system.

The service, Lyft Shuttle, is undergoing testing in San Francisco and Chicago as an extension of its Lyft Line service, the company confirmed.

“Lyft Line is the future of rideshare, and we often test new features that we believe will have positive impact on our passengers’ transportation options,” a Lyft spokesperson said in an email. “We look forward to feedback on Shuttle from the Lyft community; we see a number of commuting use cases that this mode will make easier.”

During its San Francisco testing, Lyft Shuttle is available in the Marina, Fillmore, Lower Haight, South of Market and the Financial District. (Courtesy Lyft)

Lyft Shuttle is part of Lyft’s existing “Lyft Line” service, which allows multiple people heading the same direction to share a Lyft and split the price. But instead of going to a passenger’s door, once a Lyft Shuttle is ordered it will stop on a fixed route for its passenger.

It’s only available 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and Lyft said it would release more details on the service in the future. A map sent to the San Francisco Examiner by Lyft shows the service available in the Marina District, the Fillmore, Lower Haight, South of Market and Financial District.

A Lyft spokesperson said they chose the routes after studying their trip data to understand where a majority of their passengers were using Lyft to commute to and from work.

Sue Vaughan, who sits on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizens Advisory Council, said this effort could bring Lyft into competition with Muni more than ever before.

“It’s more privatization of our public sector and our public transportation system,” she said. “We need to have a big conversation about this.”

Lyft’s traditional services that more resemble taxi cabs are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, but the SFMTA said private shuttle services within San Francisco, like the tech-enabled company Chariot, fall under local jurisdiction and not the state’s.

Lyft’s new fixed-route service, then, may be legally under the jurisdiction of the SFMTA.

“Lyft Shuttle may fall under SFMTA’s regulatory authority,” Kate Toran, head of taxi services at SFMTA, told the Examiner. “It is something we’re looking at.”

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