Second ride-hailing company begins operations on Big Island; Lyft goes live today

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Less than a week after ride-hailing first arrived on the shores of the Big Island, a new transportation startup is set to begin operations.


Less than a week after ride-hailing first arrived on the shores of the Big Island, a new transportation startup is set to begin operations.

Ride-hailing company Lyft begins services today The company also is launching on Kauai and Maui, but has been on Oahu for about three years. Lyft launched in 2012 in San Francisco and bills itself as the fastest-growing rideshare company.

With today’s expansion, which includes areas in Wyoming, Texas and the Southeast, Lyft will be in more than 300 American cities, a jump from 200 just two months ago.

“Lyft has been very thoughtful about its growth, focusing first on larger, more populated markets,” spokeswoman Jenna Stokes said in an email to the Tribune-Herald. “We’ve heard directly from people who want more markets across Hawaii.”

Lyft, like Uber, is a smartphone app that allows riders to connect with on-demand drivers. Drivers work on a freelance, part-time basis: Stokes said 82 percent drive less than 20 hours a week.

As ride-hailing companies enter markets previously served exclusively by local taxi companies, concerns about competition and level playing fields emerge. That has been the case in Honolulu, where city council members passed an ordinance placing additional certification requirements on the freelance drivers, including possession of a Hawaii driver’s license and more background checks than are mandated by the companies themselves.

The Honolulu ordinance went into effect March 15 after a year of development.

Asked about the competition in the transportation market, Stokes said Lyft stands out because of its “vision to treat people better. And we believe competition is good, and it keeps us focused on providing the best experience for drivers and passengers.”

She said the company would be working with state and local leaders to “find a way forward that preserves access to Lyft’s affordable, reliable rides for everyone.”

Wednesday was the first time Mayor Harry Kim had heard about the rollout. Kim told the Tribune-Herald he was contacted that afternoon by an Oahu attorney who represents Uber and Lyft.

The attorney just found out about the new launches, Kim said.

“They asked me if I would like to meet with them (Lyft) … I said I would have preferred to meet with them before, but (to) please call back and yes, we would like to meet with them.”


Uber representatives met with Kim last week. The mayor previously told the Tribune-Herald that ride-hailing companies could help address the island’s transportation access gaps, particularly in more remote areas.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.