"Lyft" offers New Yorkers a mustachioed ride-share

Companies like Uber and Zipcar are turning the business of getting you from here to there on its head. Today, a new name hits the road in the nation's biggest market.

"Lyft" began last year, but it's already in more than 60 cities, with $300 million in financing and and, as CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports, a colorful approach.

To start, look no further than the front of the cars themselves. Lyft drivers attach a giant pink fluffy mustache to the grill.

A Lyft car in action
A Lyft car in action
CBS News

"It's surprising, it's shocking, it gets people to talk about it, and it kicks things off on a fun note," said John Zimmer, the company's co-founder. "Lyft is about getting there affordably, but also about having a good time."

The fun includes a recommended fist-bump with your driver, and, ideally, sitting in the front seat, not the back.

Sounds strange, but Zimmer says he's going to transform transportation as we know it.

"The car used to be a symbol of freedom in America," Zimmer said, "and I think now it's an extreme burden to own a car and to operate a car, and that comes in the form of parking; that comes in the form of traffic; that comes in the form of expenses and maintenance and insurance. And so, when you can provide a service that eliminates all those things, it's a very exciting proposition."

Zimmer says, on average, 80 percent of all seats in all vehicles in this country are unoccupied. He aims to lower that by allowing people to order up rides with others on their mobile phones.

Uber does the same thing, but Zimmer says Lyft is friendlier. Drivers and passengers are encouraged to chat. When the ride is over, no charge is automatic. A donation amount is suggested. The driver keeps 80 percent.

Uber may have a head-start in the industry, but Zimmer promises, "what we're building is an entirely different experience."

Lyft has signed up 500 drivers in New York. Sandra Wallace is one of them. She's a Brooklyn native and traveling poet who's aiming to drive 30 hours a week with the pink mustache placed proudly on the front of her vehicle.

"You know what, it's a conversation piece," Wallace said. "You can't beat it. It's like, what is that pink mustache? And you can be like, oh it's Lyft, oh it's lift! Grab a lift!"

Like in other cities, today's launch has not come without protests, mostly from entrenched taxi operators and regulators. The New York City taxi and limousine commission has refused them certification because they say Lyft has not complied with their safety requirements.

Zimmer is going ahead anyway, with a clear vision of the future.

"You can step out of your house, request a Lyft, pick up someone else who's going to the same office as you, you get there for a few bucks," he said. "Basically, we're rebuilding public transportation by the people, for the people, with a system that is needed today."

Zimmer is trying to make every lane in America a carpool lane.

"It will take a few years but it's happening very quickly," he said.

Today, Lyft is coming to New York City's outer boroughs, and they plan on driving into even more cities across the country -- and someday, the world. Drivers are not required to put the pink mustaches on their car. It's just a suggestion.

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