After a harrowing launch attempt and some legal wrangling with city regulators, Lyft has finally arrived in New York. Sort of. If you actually try to use the app, there are no rides to be found.
Over the weekend, an NY-based Valleywag tipster told me he'd struck out with Lyft: "I checked every hour in most neighborhoods and no drivers were available!"
Now it's the middle of Monday—"Prime Time," as Lyft describes it. But the Google Map grid of Manhattan, the outer boroughs, and neighboring New Jersey are all desolate. Not a single car is available to take me anywhere. It's like an attempt at ridesharing after the neutron bomb.
Compare this to San Francisco, which is chockablock with Lyfts in every neighborhood:
Or New York's Uber offerings, which are similarly ample:
This is likely because the deal Lyft struck with the city is pretty strict. In an interview with New York magazine, the company's co-founder admitted the startup is operating at diminished capacity:
You just reached a deal with the TLC to follow their existing licensing rules, like Uber does. So you'll be allowed to operate in the city. But that's clearly not the outcome you wanted.
The ultimate vision is still to bring the same peer-to-peer model to New York. The current model is too expensive for the majority of drivers. But it was important to get out there very quickly, while pushing for the ultimate solution.
Unless Lyft can figure out something between "zero way to use the app" and "the ultimate solution," a lot of New Yorkers are going to forget this is even an option.