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Lyft quickly finds 150,000 people eager to ditch their cars

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DETROIT — Lyft’s fledgling campaign to convince motorists they no longer need to own cars is off to a breakneck start, a top company executive said Tuesday.

One week after Lyft kicked off its “Ditch Your Car” program, more than 150,000 people have signed up to participate in what amounts to an experiment that entices participants to park their vehicles for a month in exchange for a bundled package of transportation alternatives.

Not all will be enrolled in the program, and it’s unclear how many the ride-hailing service will accept. But Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer at Lyft, said the number of people who have expressed interest has far exceeded the company’s projections of a few thousand. The interest, he said, is indicative of a generational shift in travel preferences.

“Young people care about access to cars, not ownership, and their identity is not tied to a car as much as it used to be,” he said.

Motorists selected to participate will receive access to shared Lyft vehicles, Zipcar’s short-term car-rental network, local transit and bike-rental partners. They’ll park their cars for a 30-day period from Monday to Nov. 6.

The program will run in 35 cities across the U.S., including New York and Los Angeles, and it follows an iteration of the ditch program conducted in Chicago, in which participants received a $550 monthly stipend.

Lyft executives have been leading advocates of an anti-ownership worldview, one they say is necessary to reduce emissions and traffic congestion. In 2016, company co-founder John Zimmer predicted car ownership would be dead in major cities by 2025, and this program is an effort to accelerate that shift.

Though he shied away from a specific time frame, Kapoor said, “It’s clear to me — I don’t know the year — we’ll reach a significant inflection point. We think this is the beginning.”

His comments came during remarks at a panel discussion here on “The Battle For Driverless Cars,” part of the Tech Talk series hosted by The New York Times.

Kapoor said the idea of bundling transportation services into a single payment follows broad consumer trends, and this isn’t Lyft’s first foray into that space. This year, the company rolled out a series of subscription plans which ranged from $199 per month for 30 rides to $399 per month for 60 rides.

But beyond testing new business models, he said, the company views both the “Ditch Your Car” and subscription programs as means to help deliver broader efficiencies across the transportation system. The company stated a goal of making half of all rides shared by 2020, and recent design changes to the Lyft app more prominently feature shared-ride options. Currently, 35 percent of Lyft rides are shared, according to Kapoor.

While vehicle sales remain robust and ride-hailing services account for a fraction of overall vehicle miles traveled, any attempt to upend traditional business models may come with trepidation by automakers and dealers. Though revenue streams may change, Kapoor said that doesn’t necessarily mean those groups will be left behind if a dramatic shift in transportation habits should further materialize.

“That doesn’t mean mobility providers and Detroit can’t do it; it’s just a significant change,” he said. “It’s about usage. How can you make a great business out of usage? You see this with Netflix and Spotify, and it’s coming to transportation. This is the time for Detroit to be agile.”





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