Lyft preparing to launch in Baton Rouge

    Lyft, a ride-sharing company that competes with Uber, appears to be laying the foundation for an expansion into Baton Rouge, less than a year after it moved into New Orleans last March.

    The San Francisco-based company is on the city-parish’s list of registered businesses, which is updated daily, with a scheduled “opening date” of Jan. 26. The company, though, did not include a local address on its registration, and it is unclear whether it plans to open an office in the city.

    Lyft also has held multiple orientation sessions for new drivers over a two-day period on Jan. 8 and 9 at the Courtyard Marriott on North Mall Drive. Would-be drivers were asked to bring their license, insurance and registration.

    Darla Vaughn, the city-parish’s assistant revenue manager, says the Taxi Cab Control Board in October approved Lyft as a transportation network company, allowing them to service Baton Rouge.

    Vaughn says the company originally wanted to open in Baton Rouge in 2016 but pushed back its target date to early 2017.

    The designation from the Taxi Cab Control Board means Lyft is in compliance with local regulations dealing with registration, safety, logos and insurance, among other things.

    Mary Caroline Pruitt, a spokesperson for Lyft, says the company has been “gauging rider interest” in Baton Rouge, but declined to share any expansion plans.

    “Baton Rouge has embraced new, innovative transportation models, and we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to bring Lyft’s safe, affordable rides there in the near future,” Pruitt says in an email.

    Lyft operates similarly to Uber. Travelers in need of riders use a smartphone app to request local drivers who use their personal vehicles. Credit or debit cards are used to pay for the service, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    In 2014, the Metro Council approved local ordinances paving the way for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Baton Rouge. Uber entered the market in July of that year. 

    William Daniel, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s interim chief administrative officer, says Lyft had meetings with city-parish officials at the same time as Uber before the city-parish passed an ordinance allowing ride-sharing companies to service the area.

    “They always said it was their plan to come here,” Daniel says.

    —Sam Karlin

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