MADISON (WKOW)-- A new age transportation service is drawing praise and criticism after launching in Madison this weekend. The new on-demand ridesharing company called "Lyft" started in San Francisco and has since moved into several cities across the country. Friday night it officially launched in Madison
"I would say like 90% of the riders were college students. It's really popular in this University Avenue, Capitol Square, West Washington area," Lyft driver Justin Kibbel says.
Kibbel joined the company after seeing several advertisements for new drivers on Facebook. He's just one of nearly a dozen drivers in Madison who were picking up riders during Lyft's official launch in Madison.
"It was nerve-wracking at first picking up my first passenger, but after a while you just get used to it," Kibbel says.
The program pretty much acts like your typical taxi cab service except for one main difference, it's all online. All you have to do is log on, the program will show your exact location and then you just click request a ride. The nearest driver will be given your coordinates and then they come and pick you up.
A company spokesman for Lyft says all drivers must pass a background check and driving records check. Drivers must also be 23 or older, have insurance and own their own car that is model year 2000 or newer.
After they fulfil these requirements they must meet with a Lyft mentor in their home city. Kibbel is one of two mentors in the Madison area. He requires each new driver to go through a handful of mock pickups before they're allowed to drive alone.
"I would say I've already picked up about 50 people this week. People are really eager to try it out. We see a lot repeat customers," Kibbel says.
One of those repeat customers is Jefferson Badger. He says Lyft offers a niche service that many riders find refreshing.
"You develop a working relationship with the drivers," Badger says. "The nice thing about Lyft is that they come very quickly. You know where the car is. It'll show you a pretty solid estimate of when the car will arrive on your smart phone.."
According to the Madison Department of Transportation, Lyft is not officially licensed with the city. Officials say the company falls under the city's ordinance that requires all taxi companies to register and meet several regulations. Managers at Badger Cab say Lyft is operating with an unfair advantage because they currently aren't following several of these regulations.
"Whether it be operating 24-hours a day, not refusing service, having proper insurance levels, things of that nature," Badger Cab Operations Manager Mike Dentice says.
Badger cab and other companies are also required to post their rates on the side of their cars. Lyft currently operates under a donation-based system that tells customers what an appropriate donation amount would be based on how far their ride is.
For the next two weeks Lyft will be offering free rides to new customers in Madison. City leaders are still deciding how to regulate this new wave of online rideshare companies. The Transit and Parking Commission will meet on Wednesday to discuss Lyft's arrival in Madison.
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