Lyft asks for volunteers to ditch their cars for a month, 150,000 sign up

Program provides multi-modal transportation credits in 35 cities

Remember in August, when Lyft ran a pilot program in Chicago called "Ditch Your Car?" The ride-hailing service asked 100 Chicagoans to give up their personal vehicles for one month in return for $300 in credit for Lyft carpool rides, $105 in credit for the L train (Chicago's elevated "subway"), $100 in Zipcar credit, and $45 for Divvy bike-share (Lyft bought Motivate, which ran Divvy, earlier this year for $205 million). That meant $550 in free transportation compared to $0 in potential car commodity expenses. Lyft was so happy with the response that the company decided to do it again, expanding the program to 35 cities. Lyft hoped to register 2,000 people. Instead, more than 150,000 people signed up.

The Ditch Your Car sequel runs from October 8 to November 6 in every corner of the country as well as Toronto, Canada. Some of the chosen cities have robust public transportation networks, like New York and San Francisco. Others, like Orange County, Calif., Nashville, Tenn., and Tampa, Fla., possess modest public transport, that modesty shown in the worst light by how spread out those locales are. The stipend Lyft will provide to participants will vary from city to city, and participants are on the honor system; they're meant to store their keys in a Lyft-branded lockbox for the duration, but Lyft can't and won't try to stop them from driving their cars.

It's not clear how many of the horde Lyft accepted into the program, but the company sees the huge interest as another step toward the eventual atrophying of car ownership. Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer, told Automotive News, "Young people care about access to cars, not ownership, and their identity is not tied to a car as much as it used to be." In 2016, president John Zimmer predicted the end of personal car ownership by 2025 in major cities, which seems like a pronouncement aimed at headlines rather than tangible reality, but the company's focused on such a world no matter how long it takes to come. A participant in the Chicago pilot said the program convinced him to sell his car, and Lyft would love to help millions more people make the same decision.

We're likely not the only ones looking forward to the results of the expanded program. And apparently Lyft has even larger ideas for it: Back in July, the company was said to be considering running the same challenge in Portland, Oregon, with participants giving up their cars for a whole year.

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