Beginning at noon today, passengers in Greater Portland will have another option at their fingertips to get a lift to their destination.
Lyft, the ride-sharing service that competes with industry leader Uber, will be available in Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Gorham and Freeport.
“As Lyft expands across the country, we aim to connect people and communities through better transportation. That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to be launching in Portland, a city that cares for its people in the same way Lyft is committed to ensuring a safe and friendly experience to both riders and drivers alike,” Alex Warbasse, Senior Manager of Expansion at Lyft, said in a news release.
Known as Transportation Network Companies, Lyft and Uber use computer software and smartphone apps to connect passengers with drivers who work their own schedules and pick up people in the drivers’ own vehicles.
Ride-sharing is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, but has drawn the ire of regulators and traditional cab companies worried about unfair competition and passenger safety. For example, cab companies face higher insurance and licensing requirements, and their fares are set by the city, whereas ride-sharing companies have no limits on what they can charge for a ride.
Last year, Maine enacted a law to increase regulation on ride-sharing companies, which now are required to meet certain insurance thresholds and pay a $10,000 fee to get a business permit to operate here. That law also prohibits municipalities from regulating the services.
Lyft was expected to launch on Thursday, but state regulators had not issued the company a business permit. That permit was issued Thursday afternoon, according to a spokesperson for the Maine Secretary of State.
Lyft said in a news release that passengers will be able to download the app at noon today. New passengers will be able to receive a $5 discount on their first ride by using the code “LYFTINPWM.”
Uber is currently the industry leader in ride-sharing, with Lyft as its biggest competitor. Both companies are based in San Fransisco. Uber was founded in 2009 and is available in 491 cities, while Lyft was founded in 2012 and available in more than 200 cities.
One of the primary differences between the two services are the expectations.
Lyft, which uses a pink, dashboard-mounted mustache to identify its drivers, has the reputation of being a more laid-back experience — one where the passenger sits in the front seat and may even be greeted with a so-called fist-bump by the driver — whereas Uber has the reputation of being more professional — one where the driver may open the door for the passenger, who will often choose to sit in the back seat.
Both companies increase their fares during peak time.
Uber began operating in Portland in 2014 and recently expanded to Lewiston, Auburn, Bangor and Orono, as well as some beach communities.
When the two companies go head-to-head, they typically compete more directly for drivers than they do for passengers.
Earlier this year, National Public Radio reported that competition for drivers in some places has been so fierce that Uber hired hundreds of people throughout the country to take rides with Lyft drivers for the sole purpose of recruiting them.
One difference for drivers is that Lyft allows passengers to tip through its app, whereas Uber does not.