Lyft announced that it will operate in Charleston, South Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, on June 23. Lyft’s ever-growing network is making it easier and easier for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card to find a ride whether they are familiar with a city or not, but in major cities across the country debate over the regulation and legalization of ride-hail apps rages on.
Lyft started in 2012, just three years after Uber. Both companies have grown exponentially around the country and the world in the past, yet a Pew research study found that 33 percent of American adults have never even heard of ride-hailing apps. You can’t blame people for never hearing about the billion-dollar companies planning to revolutionize transportation and care ownership, though — some people never even have a chance to try them.
“Notably, the availability of these services is geographically constrained in a way that many of the services discussed in this report are not,” the Pew study says. “With some exceptions, they are largely only available in and around urban areas.”
Car ownership in congested cities can be onerous, and people are more likely to rely on taxis and public transportation. Lyft and Uber don’t just broaden people’s transportation options, though, one study has found that Uber and Lyft drivers are better, safer drivers than your average driver. Another study showed that having app-based ride-hailing services in a city makes that city safer in general.
Getting Lyft and Uber into a city — and then keeping it there — isn’t always easy. A measure in Chicago recently avoided regulating the services out of the city — something that Mayor Rahm Emanuel says will boost employment and offer people in Chicago more transportation choices, especially people in underserved neighborhoods.
While the companies spread across China, Latin America, and the world, many mid-sized and large cities in the United States have resisted. Charleston and Richmond can take themselves off that list, but here are five major areas in the United States that Lyft still isn’t in.
5 Major Cities that Lyft Does Not Operate
The case for Lyft and Uber in Austin was one of the most publicized. Part of that was because the two companies spent huge amounts of money in advertising, yet failed to prevent the fingerprinting regulations that led them to leave. They left so fast, however, that they are getting sued. Austin’s 885,000 people, the 51,000 students at the University of Texas, and Austin’s downtown would be a valuable market if Lyft goes back.
Upstate New York
For cities like Albany and Buffalo in upstate New York, Lyft and Uber aren’t an option. The state allows the ride-hail apps to operate in New York City (which is a huge market for both companies) but not outside of city limits. A bill to expand the state’s transportation options failed to pass in mid June.
None of Alabama’s 4.8 million residents have the option of using a ride-hail app. That goes for students at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the students at Auburn University in Auburn, and the more than one million people in Birmingham’s metropolitan area.
Uber operates in Athens, Georgia, but Lyft hasn’t made it to the city of 119,000 and the 36,000 students at the University of Georgia. Ride-hail apps do especially well with enrolled college students and college graduated millennials, a Pew Research study found.
Ride-hail services are banned for Missouri’s 6 million residents. The state has a vibrant college town in Columbia at the University of Missouri, and the urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City.