Lyft’s Lilly Shoup on Crafting a ‘Full Mobility Package’

Lilly Shoup

In April 2014, Lyft launched its ride-sharing business in 24 cities throughout the country, immediately providing competition in the rapidly changing ride hailing landscape. Four years later, it is a brave new world of mobility options and partnerships. In an exclusive interview with VX News, Lyft Senior Director of National Transportation Policy Lilly Shoup described the current state of active transportation initiatives (scooters and bikes), as well as a successful public-private partnership in Monrovia and autonomous vehicle testing in Las Vegas.

VX News: Your background leading up to your work at Lyft has spanned planning, sustainability, and transportation. Give our readers a sense of your responsibilities and the initiatives you are leading at Lyft that build on your professional expertise.

Lilly Shoup: As senior director of national transportation policy, I focus on making sure that Lyft is a good partner to cities and transportation agencies around the country. We do that by supporting policy initiatives around our shared goals of improving mobility access and decoupling the right to mobility from auto ownership.

In addition, Lyft shares with many cities the goal of achieving climate resilience, specifically by reducing vehicle miles traveled and emissions from the transportation sector. We first launched our carbon offset program in April, and this month at the Governor’s Climate Action Summit, we announced that we are expanding carbon offsets to all operations throughout the country and committing to 100 percent renewable energy.

That’s just one part of our sustainability commitment. We’re also committed to making sure that public transit remains the foundation of urban mobility. To that end, we work with transit agencies across the country, including here in Southern California, to help fill in the gaps and support the expansion of their systems.

VX News: What is an example of a public partnership that showcases the direction Lyft will take in urban transportation in the coming years? 

Lilly Shoup: One of our most innovative partnerships in my mind is located right here in Southern California with the City of Monrovia. The GoMonrovia program, which we designed and implemented hand-in-hand with the City earlier this year, uses Lyft Shared rides as an on-demand community shuttle service. All Lyft Shared rides that start and end in the City cost 50 cents thanks to transit subsidies from the city. The GoMonrovia program provides a first/last-mile connection to the Monrovia Gold Line station, as well as access to bike-share and eventually, we hope, shared scooters. We have implemented elements of this program in cities around the country, but GoMonrovia is a great proof-of-concept for the full mobility package.

As a result of this partnership, Monrovia has seen its public transit utilization ramp up tremendously. People are really happy about the service because it allows them to move around the city more frequently and with greater ease. It also results in overall cost-savings, because the city offers the subsidy in lieu of providing a separate dial-a-ride service or operating a very low-frequency fixed-route transit system.

We’ve also implemented partnerships targeted to job access, where we provide late-night or off-peak services to supplement a fixed-route transit service that runs during the day. These programs have been a tremendous way to improve mobility for people who don’t work a set schedule or who work during the evenings.

Above: A photo from the GoMonrovia launch

VX News: How does Lyft analyze the potential of partnership opportunities with cities and agencies?

Lilly Shoup: Initially, we’ve found the most success with first/last-mile programs and general community mobility programs in lower-density suburban areas—of which the Los Angeles region has plenty—where it’s less efficient to run a bus service. Running a bus every hour or two hours just isn’t supportive of people’s schedules these days, so Lyft providing first/last-mile connections is a win-win. It’s a better experience for the customer, and it saves the transit agency money while allowing them to focus on providing excellent, high-frequency service in high-capacity corridors.

Many cities and transit agencies have a goal of providing mobility to all residents—particularly those in underserved neighborhoods, those with lower incomes, and those who don’t own a car. Lyft’s goal is providing the world’s best transportation. The overlap is helping people get around their communities at a variety of price points and travel times.

Lyft supports that goal in a very specific way: by providing more options for people to get around. Just this week, we launched our own shared scooter and bicycle systems in the city of Santa Monica, and we’ll soon be servicing public transit within the Lyft app while we continue to offer shared and single rides.

VX News: Santa Monica has become a focal point of the debate about dockless scooters, bikes, and other last-mile connections. Elaborate on how your collaboration there came about.

Lilly Shoup: Santa Monica issued a permit process to operate shared mobility services such as scooters and bicycles. Lyft applied and ended up with the top-ranked response.

All of our scooter and bicycle collaborations with cities emphasize four key policy principles. The first is transportation equity. In Santa Monica, we committed to working with non-profit partners in the community to provide marketing materials and reduced fares for lower-income families and participants.

The second principle is Vision Zero and supporting safer streets. We are committed to supporting protected bicycle lanes and street design that prioritizes the safety of our most vulnerable travelers.

Third is transit integration, which we promote by providing incentives for people to leave their scooter or bicycle at transit hubs. That way, when you get off the Expo Line, for example, your options for the next leg of your trip are already there waiting for you.

The fourth tenet is environmental sustainability. We’re looking at sustainable charging for electric bikes and scooters as part of our new renewable energy commitment and expanded carbon offset program.

VX News: In your view, are cities in general pausing to think about how shared services fit into their mobility programs, or is “asking forgiveness rather than permission” still the model for scooter and bike companies?

Lilly Shoup: I can’t speak for other companies, but where cities have decided to pursue a permit process, Lyft is waiting until regulations are in place before entering that market. For example, in addition to Santa Monica, we applied for a permit in the city of Denver. We waited for their decision, and then launched there this month. Our approach is always to be collaborative and make sure that the city is ready for scooters and bikes before we enter those markets.

San Francisco was the first city to put out a permit process, and they received 12 applications. After two months of deliberations, they awarded the initial permits to Scoot and Skip. Lyft was disappointed that we weren’t selected in San Francisco, but we’re hopeful that the city will see our success in other cities and realize that we can bring that to San Francisco as well. Moreover, we know that a commitment to equity, safer street design, and transit resonates in San Francisco just like it does in Denver and Santa Monica.

VX News: What’s the potential for shared mobility services to become first/last-mile solutions on a national scale?

Lilly Shoup: I see a lot of potential for shared rides, scooters and bicycles to complement transit services. We recently announced that Lyft is showing real time arrival information about public transit routes in Santa Monica right in the Lyft app, along with scooter information. It’s another step toward providing effective, equitable, and sustainable transportation.

The ultimate goal is making it easier for people to get around without a private car, and that requires us to provide all sorts of different options, including scooters, bikes, and public transit. These programs represent a positive step toward offering more ways for people to choose to get around at a variety of price points.

VX News: What can transit agencies learn from their interactions with scooter and bike services?

Lilly Shoup: I would love to work with Big Blue Bus and the city of Santa Monica to see if the Expo Line has seen any changes in boardings and ridership based on scooter utilization around its stations. It’s too early to see those trends yet, but I can only imagine that the program will extend the reach of transit to areas with lower density or where people would otherwise have to walk more than half-mile to get to the station. A lot of docked bike-share systems have supported overall transit goals and ridership, and I would expect to see the same for dockless options as well.

VX News: Let’s pivot to Lyft’s commitment to autonomous vehicles.

Lilly Shoup: Lyft takes a unique approach to autonomous vehicles. We are pursuing research and development of our own autonomous vehicle and we are also developing an open platform for partnerships with a variety of AV companies and providers. That’s an exciting way of thinking about autonomous vehicles because it starts to build the shared fleet model—where people don’t use AVs as private cars, but can access them when needed through a shared mobility provider.

Last month, we celebrated our 5,000th AV ride in Las Vegas through our partnership with the city and Aptiv. If you’re looking to take a self-driving ride, they work just like standard Lyft rides: if an AV is available when you request a ride, you just might be matched with one. We’re very happy to report that our AVs have a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars and 96% of passengers have indicated that they intend to ride again.

VX News: What is Lyft learning from this initiative that might eventually manifest in changes to its business model or products offered? 

Lilly Shoup: We’ve seen public willingness to use autonomous vehicles go up and down. Providing the interface of a trusted ride provider like Lyft for autonomous vehicle experiences has had a very positive effect. It helps people see AVs, not as far off in the future, but as accessible today and meeting a real need—providing the mobility that people are requesting even now.

Where we’re hoping to take our autonomous vehicle program next is toward an emphasis on electrification. We want to work with cities to put in place a shared suite approach that makes autonomous vehicles accessible to everyone. 

VX News: What is Lyft working on today in the way of electric vehicle charging stations?

Lilly Shoup: Electric vehicle charging is something that Lyft is actively working on, building on our longstanding commitment to sustainability. Not only is Lyft the first and only ridesharing company to offer carbon-neutral rides, but Lyft is now a fully carbon-neutral company and covering 100 percent of its electricity consumption—including electric vehicle charging—with renewable energy.

We already have driver hubs in many cities where drivers can go to receive support and services, like vehicle inspections. We see those hubs as a strong foundation for a future electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We’re also working with our public-sector partners to support their broader electrification strategies by supporting fast-charging networks in urban areas that would be available to the public.

VX News: After working in the federal government and private consulting, what attracted you to the opportunity to direct policy at Lyft? 

Lilly Shoup: It’s a fascinating time to be in the transportation space, and in urban mobility specifically. I think Lyft has a lot to offer public transit agencies, and it’s exciting for me personally to make those connections and help inform the design of Lyft products in a way that supports our shared goals.

I lived without a private car for nearly a decade, and you really do need all-of-the-above transportation options in order to get around and get on with your life. Lyft is a key piece of making that possible for many people, and I’m excited to see more options embedded in the Lyft ecosystem so that more people feel they can effectively move around their neighborhood without owning a car.

"All of Lyft’s scooter and bicycle collaborations with cities emphasize four key policy principles: transportation equity, safer streets, transit integration, and environmental sustainability." —Lilly Shoup, Lyft