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Go car-less for 1 month and Lyft will pay for carpool, bus rides

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For car owners, spending 31 days without using your car is quite a challenge. But Lyft wants to prove otherwise with its latest promo, #DitchWithLyft.

Lyft thinks you can live without driving your own vehicle if you car share, take public transit, ride bike-shares, and of course, use Lyft. So it’s offering the first 100 people who sign up and promise to stash away their car for the month of August $550 in transit credits. 

That breaks down to:

Lyft’s own roots were as a carpool platform, Zimride, which partners with Zipcar, and it recently acquired bike-share platform Motivate, which runs the Divvy bike program in Chicago. So these aren’t unexpected partnerships for this promotional event.

But including public transit credit is a big deal. As a recent report from a transportation consultant showed, ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber are taking riders away from public transit. Lyft is technically in direct competition with the bus (and walking and biking) — instead of using a bus pass, passengers are ordering a car. The report found ride-sharing apps have added 5.7 billion miles of driving in several major U.S. cities, including Chicago.

Even shared rides in a Lyft or Uber don’t do much to help congestion. It still puts more cars on the road to pick up riders that would’ve taken public transit or other methods. 

Amos Haggiag, CEO of mass transit operations platform Optibus, said in a phone call that taking a shared Lyft or Uber feels like you’re helping out with traffic, but as everyone does this, the more traffic jams happen. “Currently there isn’t much to favor public transit over private cars,” he said.

So it helps if you offer free money to change people’s habits.

The car-less month challenge is based on the honor system, but if you can do it Lyft thinks you’ll see how expensive and unnecessary your vehicle is compared to alternate transit methods. And that’s not a bad point to make, even if it’s only 100 people who see that. That same study pointed out that using Uber and Lyft doesn’t really change personal car driving patterns, only if it’s cheaper to order a car than find and pay for parking.

The challenge comes as Lyft is preparing to unleash its own electric scooters in Denver (and possibly San Francisco) and the ride-hailing company’s co-founders just touted non-car travel methods like bikes and scooters. 

Yes, this is all about promoting Lyft’s ride-share services, but if it can convert people into heavy Lyft users — mission accomplished. Maybe they’ll sign up for a subscription plan

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