Hot on the heels of a $24.3 billion IPO, Lyft today announced a program aimed at strengthening its civic engagement in the places its drivers live and work. The program is called City Works, and it will begin in Los Angeles before spreading to metros across the country, where Lyft will form advisory councils made up of civic leaders and advocates and commit a minimum of $50 million a year (or 1 percent of profits) to “improving … life through grassroots transportation initiatives.”
“We’re proud to stand alongside Mayor [Eric] Garcetti and civic leaders in Los Angeles to launch City Works,” said Lyft general manager of Southern California Allen Narcisse in a statement. “[This] represents our long-term commitment to support cities across the country with sustainable, accessible, and connected transportation solutions.”
In Los Angeles, Lyft’s initiatives will fall under three broad categories: providing transportation, developing transportation infrastructure, and promoting clean energy usage. Through City Works, it will offer free and discounted rides to support staff and communities of Garcetti’s A Bridge Home partner organizations, including the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles, PATH, and the People Concern, and it’ll work with the city to expand transportation infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods (in part with its forthcoming Drive Centers). Additionally, it will collaborate with nonprofits like Investing in Place to make bikes and scooters available to low-income families.
City Works is more or less an amalgam of Lyft’s existing commitments to community uplift, albeit with fresh capital behind it. The ride-sharing company pledged last year to make the bulk of its rides carbon neutral and to use 100 percent renewable energy at its facilities, and it recently announced that it’ll purchase renewable energy credits through Los Angeles’ Green Energy for a Green LA program. Lyft also invests in services that minimize single-occupancy cars, like Shared Saver.
But it’s worth noting that the company isn’t unique in this regard.
Just yesterday, Uber highlighted the ways its dockless bike share services are improving outcomes in cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Uber, like Lyft, partners with transit systems to identify first- and last-mile challenges unsolved by public transit and aims to reduce carbon emissions by “collaborating with experts in the hybrid and electric vehicle field.” (Its EV Champions Initiative tasks drivers with completing 5 million electric vehicle rides in 2019, and in London it’s targeting 100 percent hybrid or battery-electric cars for UberX.)
Uber’s and Lyft’s critics contend that their outreach efforts are little more than a smokescreen meant to distract from poor treatment of drivers. This week, after Uber slashed its per-mile pay by 25 percent in Los Angeles County and parts of Orange County, resulting in a payout of 60 cents per mile instead of 80 cents, thousands of drivers participated in coordinate protests across California to demand better pay and greater transparency. (In San Francisco, picketing forced Lyft to relocate a presentation to investors.)