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Lyft and transit partners launch ‘Ditch your car’ contest in Portland

Posted by on September 27th, 2018 at 11:48 am

It’s very true. Try it!

“We spend so much time, money, and effort driving around cities. Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave our cars at home sometimes?”

That’s the headline for a new contest just launched by ridesharing company Lyft. The “Ditch Your Car” challenge is a partnership between Lyft and local public transportation providers including Biketown, TriMet, Portland Streetcar, and Zipcar.

50 lucky Portlanders will be chosen through an online sign-up form to participate. They’ll be given $549 in ride credits to use for one month. Winners will get $300 credit from Lyft, a 1-month Zipcar membership (with free activation), plus $100 drive credit, a 1-month TriMet and Portland Streetcar pass, and a 1-month Biketown membership (good for 90 minutes of Biketown a day for a month).


The contest is obviously a marketing ploy; but it’s also a way to encourage people to stop driving. By joining together, the companies are making it clear that the carfree (or low-car) future will rely on using multiple modes to get around. (Noticeably absent from the list of partners is an e-scooter provider. Lyft has an e-scooter but they’re not permitted in the current pilot program.)

“Ridesharing has already changed the way Americans depend on owning a car and how we get around cities,” reads a press statement. “But now it’s time to take an even bolder step toward creating a new future of mobility.”

Sign-ups started yesterday. Once chosen the program will run from October 8th to November 6th.

Throw your hat in the ring at

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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30 thoughts on “Lyft and transit partners launch ‘Ditch your car’ contest in Portland”

  1. Avatar Andrew Kreps says:

    Uh, hang on- Do you have to use all of those credits in a single month? That sounds…ridiculous. If having someone else drive you around in the autumn rain costs nothing, what do you think most people will choose? So the net effect is actually adding vehicle-driven miles on our roads. Lovely.

  2. Avatar yarp says:

    this is also suggesting that one needs to spend $6588.00 per year to not own a private vehicle…

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Not at all. No one is going to use all those credits. They are providing options so you have choices.

  3. Avatar bikeninja says:

    Gotta give them props for the name, “Ditch Your Car” , gives me a warm fuzzy feeling just thinking about it. I like the thought of the ditches filled with cars that have run out of gas for the last time, never to run again until the biomass car crusher comes for them.

  4. Avatar William Henderson says:

    I fixed a small typo in their headline:

    You don’t need y̶o̶u̶r̶ a car to get around Portland

  5. Avatar Gary B says:

    Seems to me just more greenwashing “ridesharing” (they still call it that? One day I’ll share a ride with this mythical fellow ride-sharer). I suppose some reduction in a winner’s vehicle miles is probable as they have other, free options for a month. But “encourage people to stop driving”? C’mon now.

    1. Avatar bikeninja says:

      You might not be sharing a ride with a mythical fellow but with a thing or things. I have long predicted that the Amazon Delivery Gigger will soon merge with the Uber/Lift Gigger so that it will be common on a rideshare trip to share the seats, trunk and roof with bags of cat litter, and cases of soda. In fact with the trend toward zero law enforcement on motor vehicle operation I predict we will soon see budget ride share seats available to those who will just cling to the roof of the car. I believe that this model of maximizing vehicle space as pioneered in places like India will be the ticket toward Uber finally achieving profitability .

  6. Avatar John Liu says:

    Lyft cars are still CARS, are they not? So how does this help create bike and ped friendly cities?

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Thank you for asking that.

    2. Avatar B. Carfree says:

      1. Several years ago, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition found that the number one cause of cyclist injuries (and deaths, IIRC) in incidents that involve cars-on-bikes was dooring. If someone takes rideshare instead of driving, then there’s one less car parked at their destination. Obviously, one car isn’t much, but imagine if 30% of folks took rideshare. That might give PBoT the guts to fix all those door zone bike lanes by removing on-street parking.

      2. Not all cars present an equal hazard. While we currently don’t regulate rideshare drivers as well as we should, there is at least potential to give them better incentives, both carrots and sticks, to raise their safety game (like using cmtelematics ap or equivalent to score their driving for safety and requiring a certain threshold score for employment).

      3. I see potential to break the addiction cycle people have with their cars. If they can leave their car at home for a month, maybe they can realize that it’s not the appropriate tool for every trip. Imagine a city in which people only drive when that’s the overwhelming best option? The roads would be nearly devoid of cars.

      4. In the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which closed the San Francisco Bay Bridge, it was discovered that people had been driving across the bay many times per day. When the bridge closed, they cut back to just commuting. It may well be true that being at work without a car handy will cause people to forego those many little trips (driving to lunch and whatnot) that cause our roads to have much more traffic from noon on.

      1. Avatar Pete says:

        Unfortunately ridesharing doesn’t reduce dooring in cities (nor does it actually facilitate patrons ‘sharing’ rides, to Gary B’s point), but it does increase the number of untrained ‘contractors’ standing and letting people off in bike lanes. Lyft is piloting a program where their app informs their drivers of “no drop” zones where the problem has gotten particularly bad.

  7. Avatar resopmok says:

    Agree that “rideshare” is a new-fangled word for “disregulated taxi cab,” which ultimately, will do nothing to reduce car usage any more than taxi cabs ever have. At least in the short-term, the data I’ve seen (which, sorry I have no links, but maybe someone else does) seems to indicate that “rideshare” is actually adding to overall miles traveled in cars instead of reducing it. Ultimately, I’m not sure greenwashing is really the right word for this campaign, since that term insinuates to me that an environmental issue is at stake, where here we’re dealing with a transportation issue. Lyft is definitely doing this as a marketing ploy, though; my hunch is they care very little about how many cars any person owns or drives regularly and care very much about whether people are using their service. The stench of opportunism here is quite ripe.

  8. Avatar B. Carfree says:

    I guess I’m going against the grain in thinking this is a good thing. Anything that can get people to experience life with a little more distance between themselves and their four-wheeled master is a good thing. People seem to rely on their cars for their sense of self; it’s like their constant companion. Sure, they’re still going to be in a car when they do the lyft thing and such, but I do think it’s important that it’s not THEIR car.

    Who knows, maybe a few of them will see the value of a life free from car ownership. If any of the participants decide to truly ditch their car after the month, I’d love to hear their stories. I’d also love to hear from the participants during the month of subsidies.

    1. Avatar Pete says:

      To be fair, the data these companies are now trying to produce back claims that they reduce drunk driving, which is probably true.

  9. Avatar Ryan says:

    I don’t understand why the future of mobility seems to rely so heavily on corporations. According to this our only option is to set money aside to give to corporations that exploited an existing lack of infrastructure and hide the shortcomings of our government to provide for general welfare and economic mobility.

    Bikes are great, they are the most utilitarian machine out there. Maybe they should set $500 aside for each participant to put towards a bike?

  10. Avatar JJJ says:

    I dont own a car and I cant fathom spending $549 on Lyft in a year, never mind a month.

  11. Avatar soren says:

    The negative externalities of shared car use may be even worse than low-occupancy car use.

    1. Avatar John Liu says:

      Lyft cars are always driving around looking for rides. When you book a ride the Lyft car has to get to where you are, adding even more driving.

      Compare to using a private car, which sits in a parking spot until the driver walks to it, then drives directly from point A to point B, where it will again sit parked.

      Lyft, Uber, Lime, and all the other transport-tech companies have so much investor money to spend, and so many media outlets, employees and investors singing their praises, that they are able to dominate the media and shape the public perception. Like the idea that “rideshare” is green.

      Bike, buses, walking are green. Rideshare is simply an app-powered taxi service which pays drivers about half of what traditional taxi drivers make and will eventually get rid of drivers altogether by using robot cars.

  12. Avatar q says:

    Transportation companies referring to their business as “ridesharing” does remind me of airbnb’s attempts to convince people that airbnb rentals were overwhelmingly widows renting out their spare bedrooms to help with their mortgage payments, through the ‘sharing economy”. Most people now seem to understand that the short-term rental “sharing economy” includes plenty of investors converting homes into unregulated hotels, with aribnb using the poor widows story as a reason to exempt it from hotel regulations.

    There’s good associated with “ridesharing” but people (government especially) need to remember that it’s a business like any other. As others have said, their main goal isn’t to get people out of private cars, but to get people into anything the companies can charge them for.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Kind of like invoking the frail and old to explain why e-bikes are necessary, why public resources should be mobilized to make them available.

      1. Avatar soren says:

        Comparing the negative externalities of e-bike use with the negative externalities of gig-economy “rideshare” services is monumental false equivalency.

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          Monumental? Really?

          1. Avatar soren says:

            One increases automobility and one substantially subtracts from automobility (perhaps even more than pedal cycling).

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              I’m not sure those categories are so apt here. If cars and bikes are both powered by electricity stored in lithium cells, who is really winning and who is losing?

  13. Avatar Jon says:

    Turns out ride hailing services increase automobile miles traveled by around 83%. Bad news for all non-car users.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      How interesting. Thanks for that study.

      I’ll be curious to hear the boosters respond.

  14. Avatar John Liu says:

    “Vehicle miles traveled increased mainly due to two factors; additional empty miles from ride-hailing drivers going around without passengers, and ride-hailing substituting more efficient and sustainable modes such as transit, biking and walking,” said Henao.

    There is decrease in overall transportation efficiency due to more car miles on the road, often traveling without passengers. For every 100 miles carrying passengers, Uber and Lyft drivers travel an additional 69 miles without a passenger, conservatively.”

    1. Avatar Dimitrios P says:

      Another negative of rideshare: Uber does not dispatch delivery partners who are closest to the restaurant on their food delivery platform You can be a block away from a restaurant and someone up to 5 miles away will get the order. They build in empty travel miles for the delivery drivers in order to reduce the time spent waiting in the restaurant. There are reasons for this, which all stem from the system that Uber designed and could rectify. However, it’s easier for Uber to leverage delivery partners and the city’s infrastructure as much as possible.

  15. Avatar Greg Spencer says:

    Our family logs fewer car miles than we would if ride sharing didn’t exist. We don’t own a car, but when the need arises — e.g. to haul something big, to do a cross-town trip that would take forever on TriMet or when we’re going out at odd hours when TriMet frequency sucks — we use ride share. Otherwise, for 80-90 percent of our trips, we use bikes or TriMet. Why? I’d like to say it’s because we’re paragons of environmental responsibility, but there’s also a big financial disincentive to use ride sharing. Every trip on an Uber costs $10-20, and we don’t want to do pay that for routine trips. So, based on that, I think ride share is a useful complement to other other sustainable alternatives to car ownership, and reduces our enviro impact.

  16. Avatar John Mulvey says:

    The City of Portland should be thinking up prizes for walking.

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