In yet another indication that the U.S. is over the covid-19 pandemic—although health officials state it is by no means over yet—Lyft announced on Thursday that it was bringing back carpooling to five cities this month: San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. The ride hailing company plans to relaunch the service to even more markets later in 2022.
In a blog post, Lyft said that shared rides, which offer some of its most affordable fares, will look a little different than users remember. Shared ride requests will be limited to one passenger, the company explained, which means that users won’t be able to book a carpool for two people at the same time, as used to be the case. Each carpool will have two passengers max. In addition, users can now book a shared ride in advance, which could lower the fare.
Lyft stated that wearing masks in shared rides is optional, stressing that users should respect whether drivers or other riders choose to mask up.
“As one of our most in-demand and affordable ride options, we look forward to gradually bringing Shared rides back,” Ashwin Raj, the company’s head of ridesharing, said in the blog post. “We recognize the world has changed and our offerings need to evolve with it. That’s why we are bringing Shared rides back in phases and listening to feedback along the way–all so we can continue to deliver the best possible service for our riders and drivers.”
Besides the five new cities announced on Thursday, shared rides will also be available in Philadelphia and Miami soon.
The company’s announcement was made two days after it provided mixed first quarter results, which resulted in a plunge of its stock. Lyft reported a 44% increase in revenue year-over-year yet experienced a slight drop in active riders (from 18.7 million last quarter to 17.8 million). Lyft also released a lower revenue guidance for the next quarter than expected. The company said it planned to increase spending in an attempt to woo more drivers, adding that those costs would weigh on its bottom line. By contrast, its main rival Uber reported high Q1 earnings.
The new version of shared rides is no doubt a welcome change for Lyft drivers, many of whom hated them because of low customer ratings and inefficient directions that annoyed riders, the Verge reported. Lyft said that shared rides will be “completely optional” for drivers for the rest of year, which would allow them to reject the multiple-rider fare without getting penalized.