Lyft’s ‘Line’ carpool service hits Boston, following Uber’s lead

Lyft New Stache

The transportation-app wars are ratcheting up in Boston. Lyft, the second largest ride-hailing company in the United States, is introducing a new carpooling service for its passengers this week.

The new option, called Lyft Line, comes nearly two months after market leader Uber rolled out its own carpooling option in the Boston area.

Both services work in essentially the same way: Passengers jump into a car that might stop at another point along the way to pick up new people, who are heading the same direction. The rides, however, are significantly cheaper than the standard rides-for-hire offered through the app.

Lyft began offering Line in its home market of San Francisco more than a year ago. It now accounts for more than half the rides in that city, the company said.

Boston is the fifth city to get the Line option in Lyft’s app, following San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin, Texas. It launches in Boston Oct. 1.

Tyler George, Lyft’s general manager for Boston, said the carpooling option makes sense for the area because of its twisting roads, severe weather, and gaps in the MBTA system.

“Even in Boston, where there’s so much congestion, I look around and almost every car I see has one person in it,” said George, who joined Lyft this year after serving as director of North American operations for Zipcar.

Just like traditional carpooling, the ride-hailing version isn’t for everyone.

Line passengers can’t ask the driver to alter the route or make extra stops — the trip has to maintain its original route as it picks up others along the way. A Line ride also can’t be ordered by more than two people at once, since the service relies on having empty seats that other passengers can claim.

Riders also have to be ready to go immediately: “Since there may be other passengers depending on you, drivers will not wait more than a minute at your pickup location,” Lyft says on its website.

Lyft plans to offer Line rides for a flat rate of $7 in a specified “hot zone” around Boston and Cambridge. That price won’t be permanent, but George said Lyft didn’t have a definite plan for how long the promotional price would remain in place.

Promotional "hot zone" for introductory Lyft Line rides.
Promotional "hot zone" for introductory Lyft Line rides.
In general, Line rides will be 15 percent to 20 percent cheaper than a standard ride booked in the Lyft app, the company said.

The increased competition between Lyft and Uber comes as state legislators consider bills that would establish the first formal regulatory system for the next-generation transportation companies.

Updated 11 a.m. with image of promotional fare zone.