Lyft is introducing a new delivery facility to help drivers earn money during the novel pandemic Coronavirus. As ride-hailing demand declines, Lyft’s latest pilot system will tap drivers to transport “key” products such as food, medical supplies, and home goods.
Lyft has been lagging behind its competitors, Uber, in the distribution for years, but with the pandemic putting many drivers out of work and rising demand for delivery the company is now wading in. The program, first announced last month, is called Critical Deliveries and is scheduled to launch in 11 cities — including Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle.
The services provided by Lyft vary from those customer-facing services availed by Uber-Eats, Door Dash, and Instacart. Approved partners including local non-profits, businesses, government organizations, and health care organizations schedule deliveries via an online portal which will be picked up by Lyft drivers.
Recipients will include seniors and those with compromised immune systems looking to minimize the risk of COVID-19 radiation. Lyft says it will provide affordable transit to low-income people and families too.
Lyft says the initiative will spread around the world, as more participants are signed up. Now the company is only licensed in North America.
Delivery is not the only way Lyft has to change in the wake of the pandemic. In half a dozen towns, the company also provides free and discounted bike-share passes and e-scooter rides to essential workers. Free or inexpensive cycle and scooter trips are especially useful because mass transit commuting in most cities tends to decline and ride-sharing is not seen as a convenient option. In reality, cycling in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago has seen a boom.
Lyft’s ride-sharing company has, of course, collapsed as health authorities are instructing people to stop excessive travel. According to the news, the rides market business has been cut in half in recent weeks. Revenue from Lyft after charging drivers is estimated to be less than $150 million a month at present, down from about $260 million a month in the first quarter of last year. Uber has also seen a significant decline in demand and sales.
The pandemic has also amplified the issues of labor at Lyft are facing. All businesses have come under criticism for the classification of drivers and distribution staff as independent contractors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote a letter to gig companies asking them to reclassify their distribution staff as employees, rather than independent contractors, and ensure that they are provided with a complete package of workplace rights and benefits.