Heard on the Hill

Need a Lyft? New Car Service Aims for Good Vibes

Living in the District means having a car isn't exactly a necessity, until it is.

Uber swooped into Washington hoping to fill the void with its mobile app connecting the carless-but-connected with its uberTaxi, uberBlack and uberSUV services. The D.C. Taxicab Commission didn't take kindly to Uber, although the Federal Trade Commission has warned the local commission that coming down hard on Uber and other Web-based car services could stifle innovation.

Against that backdrop, Lyft, a car-sharing service that started in San Francisco, has decided to drive on in.

Lyft, which held a "top-secret kick-off party" earlier this month at 1776-The Penthouse, promises to be "your friend with a car," complete with its trademark pink fluffy mustache and encouraged driver-driven bonding. Why a pink mustache, you ask? There's actually a good story behind it.

The pink mustache is a smile, its website says. Its goal is for you to be a little happier at the end of your ride than you were at the beginning.

"What really sets Lyft apart from other services is the community experience," said Erin Simpson of Lyft. "Riders can sit up front with the drivers, choose the music and have really good conversation.

"We also go above and beyond in the matter of safety," Simpson said. "Potential drivers are screened through criminal background checks, DMV records, followed by in-person interviews." Lyft also has a first-of-its-kind, $1 million per occurrence excess liability insurance policy. Once a ride is complete, passengers are prompted to pay through the app to the extent they've enjoyed the experience. Riders also will  give feedback about drivers, so anyone who isn’t providing comfortable trips will get dumped from the system.