(TNS) — Lyft has made a U-turn and plans on coming to Eugene and Springfield. The San Francisco-based company has changed its mind less than a week after objecting to city rules and leaving ride-hailing in the cities to its main competitor, Uber.
Lyft has an application in with the city of Eugene for an operating license, said Lindsay Selser, city of Eugene Planning and Development Department spokeswoman. Lyft's application came in late Friday afternoon. Such licenses from the city also allow a ride-hailing company to operate in Springfield.
Uber filed an operating license application last Thursday, Selser said. The city has yet to grant either license, but the process typically takes only a day or two, she said. Uber, also based in San Francisco, has announced that it plans to start operating in Eugene on Thursday. It's unclear yet when Lyft will start up in Eugene and Springfield.
"No company has a license to operate here yet," Selser said.
It's also not clear why Lyft's leadership reversed course. When reached by phone, a Lyft spokeswoman wouldn't say when the company planned on beginning business in Eugene and Springfield or comment further. However, she sent a statement late Monday.
In the statement, Lyft Pacific Northwest General Manager Todd Kelsay said the company was working closely with the city to bring ride-hailing to Eugene, "the largest city in Oregon without" the service. Kelsay also extolled the benefits of ride-hailing through Lyft, such as "people can get where they need to go more easily, drivers can enjoy more earning opportunities, and local businesses can benefit from increased economic activity."
When asked to comment on Lyft's announcement, Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley didn't directly address its competitor's plans to enter the Eugene market, instead thanking "a coalition of hardworking community advocates and an outpouring of public support for making (ride-hailing)" a reality in Eugene.
"It will mean more choice for riders and earning opportunities for drivers," Hambley said.
Ride-hailing allows customers with a smartphone app to hail and pay for a ride, outside of a traditional taxi service. Drivers apply for employment with Lyft and Uber — sometimes both — and use their own smartphones to find customers. Lyft and Uber are the two biggest companies in the ride-hailing world.
Last week, when Uber's announcement lit up social media in Eugene and Springfield, Lyft appeared to cede the market to Uber.
"Unfortunately, the ride-hailing rules approved by the city contain unnecessary provisions that prevent us from entering Eugene at this time," Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin told The Register-Guard. "We will continue to work with city leaders to try to reach a mutually agreeable solution."
Matt Sayre, Technology Association of Oregon vice president, has advocated for ride-hailing as a transportation option in Eugene and Springfield. He enthusiastically spread the word Monday that Lyft will join Uber in the cities.
"Really, this is the best outcome, with two new options for people to choose from," said Sayre, who doesn't advocate for either ridesharing service over the other.
Lyft has not operated in Eugene or Springfield previously, but Uber has.
Uber suspended operations in the cities in April 2015, less than a year after starting up. The company disagreed with the city of Eugene's requirements for insurance, vehicle inspections and driver background checks. In settling a lawsuit brought by the city, Uber agreed not to resume rides in Eugene before obtaining an operating license.
But Uber didn't apply for a license under the city's old rules. Nor did Lyft.
Eugene city councilors eased ride-hailing requirements in April and last month adopted revised rules in an effort to attract companies such as Uber — and now, Lyft.
©2018 The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.