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Lyft offers custom carpooling service. Should mass transit be worried?

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Yolanda M. James/The Commercial Appeal/AP/File

(Read caption) Lyft driver Geoffrey Frisch, 36, enters his vehicle before heading to the Memphis International Airport July 14, 2014. Lyft will offer a carpooling service, Lyft Line, that offers custom routes and fewer stops than public transportation.

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Taxi-esque car-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have made lots of headlines recently -- and lots of enemies, too. So far, most of those enemies have been cab companies and their drivers, who are (rightly) worried about the lack of regulation in the car-sharing industry and also (less rightly) worried about their ability to compete against these new, ad hoc taxi networks.

Now, Lyft is set to make a few more black lists -- this time, among public transportation employees. According to Mashable, the company has unveiled a new service that's going head-to-head with mass transit, offering custom routes, fewer stops, and arguably cleaner seats than buses, trains, and ferries.

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The service is called Lyft Line, and it works like a custom-made carpool. Riders select the Lyft Line option within the Lyft iOS app, plug in their destination, and Lyft immediately provides a price, then sets off in search of fellow passengers. (Lyft says that the match-up process only takes a couple of minutes.) Because the price of the ride is set at the start, it won't change, even if Lyft can't pair you with other riders.

Lyft says that the cost of Lyft Line is typically 30 or 40 percent cheaper than a solo Lyft ride, but in some cases, it can be up to 60 percent lower. That makes it moderately competitive with public transportation -- and with door-to-door service, it's far more convenient.

The company claims that Lyft Line is "smartly routed" and that users will never have to go more than a few minutes out of their way en route to their destination. And of course, because we're living in the Smartphone Era, users can learn a bit about their co-riders, via the Lyft app.

Lyft Line launches in a closed beta test next Friday, August 15, in Lyft's hometown of San Francisco, but it's expected to roll out to other cities (and Android fans) in the near future.


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