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Lyft focuses on seniors with new option to book rides by phone call

Lyft is adding an option to allow people to order a ride in a more retro way — by phone call — a year after Uber tried doing the same before shutting it down.

The ride-hail company said Wednesday it launched a special service in dozens of Florida cities to allow people to call a number (631-201-LYFT) with a cell phone to book a car on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s geared towards seniors and those without access to its app. Once a ride is booked, Lyft said it will communicate updates via text message.

The service, which Lyft said it piloted in late 2020 in Miami before expanding to more Florida cities, is similar to one Uber announced last February. Uber’s service was only available in select markets — Arizona, Florida and New York City — for rides or meal deliveries, but by the end of 2020, the company paused the program.

An Uber spokesperson told CNN Business Wednesday that there was declining use of the service, with only a few hundred people a month using it. Uber’s service also allowed users to order food delivery. (Those who call the Uber hotline now are told they can request rides from the mobile site or app.)

Sam Bond, regional director for Lyft in the Southeast, said in a statement that the company looks forward to “helping seniors access transportation to essential services and resources that may be currently out of reach without a car.”

The company didn’t directly address why it believes the program will succeed where Uber’s stalled, only reiterated that it is dedicated to serving vulnerable and underserved communities.

On an earnings call earlier this month, Lyft president John Zimmer said the pandemic “has amplified transportation and security, especially for seniors and vulnerable communities. We are committed to ensuring that transportation access is not a barrier to beating this virus.”

At the end of 2020, the company announced a vaccine access program with a goal to provide 60 million rides to and from vaccination sites alongside JPMorgan Chase, Anthem Inc. and United Way.

Article Topic Follows: Money

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