New Business “Lyfts” Off in Miami

Just before sundown Thursday, Lyft took off in South Florida with a party in the street.

Lyft is a smartphone app linking users to drivers for rides in Miami-Dade County and as far as Fort Lauderdale. The service launched in Tampa just a few weeks ago.

"People not only connect on the app, but also in person," said Cybele Safadi, Lyft's first Miami driver.

Her car, like all Lyft vehicles, sports a pink mustache, a signal for passengers that their ride has arrived and it's safe.

"We have this joke here at Lyft that if you're dating a Lyft driver, then you know you're in good hands. They're super, super squeaky clean," Safadi said.

Lyft says it screens riders and drivers through Facebook, and also conducts additional background checks.

"You log in either through Facebook or you submit your phone number and go through a verification process," expalined Lyft spokesperson Alma Aldrich. "You're entering your information, and then, we're tracking the ride through GPS. So, it's an incredibly safe, and again, friendly way to get around town."

The service fees are fixed, and drivers and riders get to rate each other. To some, Lyft may sound like Uber, another app-based car service that tried to enter South Florida.

"The Lyft business model is very different from a lot of other services that exist in the transportation industry. We are a purely peer-to-peer model. So, that means that you or I, once we pass the background check, pass the vehicle inspection, can be drivers with our own vehicles," said Aldrich.

Drivers must be at least 23, drug free, drive late-model cars and be insured. Some local cab operators believe Lyft is skirting the law by transporting passengers for money, without county certifications to provide that service.

And, with Urban Beach Weekend, Memorial Day, and summer around the corner, Lyft is betting on a big launch.

"This is the perfect opportunity for folks in Miami to try out Lyft," Aldrich said.

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