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Lyft Introduces Local City Managers to Bolster Its Growth

The development comes at a time when Lyft's future is unclear.


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Lyft just paid Uber a compliment.

It’s hiring city managers in ten or 12 of its 65 markets in the United States, a growth tactic that Uber has employed from the beginning. These general managers will work with Lyft’s mentors — drivers who are paid to help onboard and support new drivers to the system.

The GMs will also create local promotions, the type of kitten- and rose-delivering stunts we’ve become accustomed to with on-demand ride companies, and will notify drivers when they need to avoid certain areas or take specific routes due to weather or special events.

In short, they’ll give one-on-one, localized attention to the Lyft experience outside of the Bay Area. Before now, Lyft’s market managers were based in its headquarters in San Francisco and handled multiple cities at once.

Uber pioneered the local GM stategy in the on-demand ride space. People in the tech industry have both heralded this growth tactic as the reason for the company’s fast expansion and dismissed it as a costly and unnecessary expense.

Lyft thinks the local city manager approach is right now that it has reached a certain level of scale. “We’ve gotten beyond niche,” said a Lyft spokesperson. “Now we’re focused on gaining a larger presence in these cities.”

It’s taking a slightly different approach to the GM role than Uber did. Instead of city managers being responsible for onboarding new drivers, Lyft’s local teams will exist primarily as a resource for driver mentors. “The mentor program has continued to be the best way we’ve scaled,” the spokesperson said.

The development comes at a time when Lyft’s future is unclear. The pink-mustachioed ride-hailing company has grown much more slowly than its Uber counterpart; as a result, it has major marketing and awareness challenges in cities beyond its headquarters — Uber is the incumbent in most places.

If it becomes a winner-take-all market, Lyft may disappear, since Uber is far bigger and better funded at this point. But if the on-demand ride space stays as fragmented as current transportation options, there’s hope yet for Lyft to carve out a stable community of its own.

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