By Stephen Dethrage Staff Writer
The ride-sharing service Lyft will launch operations in Tuscaloosa and four other Alabama cities Thursday afternoon.
According to a company news release, Lyft drivers will be available in Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery at noon Thursday. Their services are already available in Alabaster and Birmingham.
"Lyft has spent the first three months of 2017 bringing better transportation options to cities across the country," said Jaime Raczka, head of early stage markets and expansion. "Today, we are excited about continuing this growth and bringing safe, friendly and reliable ridesharing to new communities."
Lyft works similarly to Uber, which officially launched in Tuscaloosa last summer, and allows people looking for a ride to request one with the touch of a button on a smartphone app. After the service kicks off at noon Thursday, users can enter the code "LYFTLOVE17" on the app to get $5 off their first ride in town.
Ride-sharing got off to a rocky start in Tuscaloosa when Uber butted heads with City Hall officials in 2014 over demands that their drivers comply with a series of safety regulations. The two sides were able to reach an agreement last year, though, and the Tuscaloosa City Council voted to allow ride-sharing services here in June.
Tuscaloosa City Councilman Matt Calderone said the city spent those two years developing rules and regulations for Transportation Network Companies, such as Lyft and Uber.
"The city of Tuscaloosa has worked really hard to develop a local TNC ordinance and I'm proud of the companies taking advantage of that policy," Calderone said. "We welcome Lyft to the community, we're excited about their operations here and look forward to them beginning to serve our citizens."
Calderone's District 4 includes downtown Tuscaloosa and most of the University of Alabama campus, and it's a safe bet that a large portion of Uber and Lyft's business will be conducted there.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox echoed Calderone's sentiments and said it's good to see the seeds the city planted while developing their TNC policy begin to bear fruit.
"It is exciting to have another ride-sharing company in Tuscaloosa," Maddox said. "Creating a legal and policy framework that could foster competition was one of our goals when we embarked on this process two years ago with Uber."