On December 8, 2018, Aspen City Council announced its plans to partner with the Rideshare company Lyft in an unprecedented move to combat our city’s traffic problem. The plan includes Lyft scooters, minibuses that can use the bus-only transit lane, and an influx of drivers, as well as what would undoubtedly be a very active marketing campaign. It seems that this partnership is a direct agenda of Aspen mayor Steve Skadron. Below is my email to city council. If you have any feelings about this deal (don’t let this deal go dowwwn…), please email city council as well! The vote has been tabled for one to two months for talks to open up with local transportation providers, which should have been done from the first place.
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Noah Zemel, and I have worked with both Lyft and Uber full-time now for over two years. In that time, I have gotten to learn much about the companies, their values, and how they operate. This year, I launched my own limousine business and am trying to break into that market.
I want to start by saying that we definitely have a transportation issue that needs to be addressed. We have thousands of contractors driving from down-valley every day. We have employees not carpooling because of the inconvenience.
What the city aims to do here by giving Lyft $800,000 will backfire. Lyft wants the free marketing you are promising them. Everything else they are claiming they will do is a play. As it stands, Lyft performs woefully in comparison to Uber in the valley. I can see that when I log into both applications. I will get only one or two Lyft requests per night. The scooters will compete directly with city-funded WeCycle, which seems a poor use of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, they will only work in fair-weather, and Lyft will terminate their ability to operate after 9pm as they currently do in Denver. The minibuses/shuttles they plan to contract out will not be utilized by workers. No contractor is going to load their HVAC or stone-masonry tools into a shuttle bus when they have a van built out for the job, especially if it just means driving a little further. Time-wise, it most likely will be quicker for a contractor to wait in traffic on 82 than to load everything into a shuttle at the intercept lot and then unload everything just so they can use the bus lane.
What really should happen is if the city is considering opening the bus lane to shuttles from a private company, they should open that lane to hard-working locals providing the same service. That is taxis, limos, and TNC drivers. This solution won’t involve giving out $800,000 to a multi-billion dollar company and instead keep taxpayer dollars in the valley, where it belongs. Or we can have employers incentivize carpooling with city-subsidized funds.Lyft’s main goal here is to encourage more drivers to sign up with their platform or commute from Denver (which will happen), and to seize some of the rider market currently being supplied by taxis, limos, and Uber. Having more TNC operators in town WILL NOT reduce congestion. It will encourage drivers to do laps around town and battle each other for “honeyspots” (outside of Eric’s, the airport, etc.) so they are the closest car when the algorithm pings them for a request. In a 2018 study, “The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities”, Shaller delves into how rideshare has increased traffic in nine major US markets. There are many other studies concluding the same result.
I know Lyft. This company does not value it’s contractors. We are commodities in their eyes. I cannot qualify for APCHA because they do not consider it a job! Nobody is going to benefit from this deal. Except Lyft.
CEO, Ajax Express
Obviously so much of the business that transpires through our town is passed on from friends to friends, like that cheap apartment in Aspen core. I realize as a newcomer to the livery scene in Aspen, I will be competing against long-standing partnerships between hotel concierge and existing limo companies. Which is why I want to offer an introductory kick-back of 20% of the fare to any business that comes through a referral. This also applies to anybody in town that drives business my way, not exclusive to hotel staff. Please send me an email if you were responsible for any bookings and we will work from there. I understand this is a small town and I want to build my business around being an honest and friendly individual to work with.
On that note, I hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving and are getting some good days on the slopes. The conditions are amazing with more storms in the forecast. Here’s to hoping Ullr delivers this winter!