Q&A with Aaron Zifkin, Managing Director of Lyft Canada
We are incredibly excited to welcome Aaron Zifkin, Managing Director of Lyft Canada, to TractionForce as a keynote speaker. We spoke to him recently about our upcoming community event, the values that propel Lyft forward and how the rideshare company is changing the way we think about our communities.
Hey, Aaron! Thanks for doing this with us.
Absolutely, I’m really looking forward to TF19! It’s an impressive line-up of speakers and I’m excited to share the Lyft story with attendees.
The theme of this year’s TractionForce is the Collective Why. Can you tell us how Lyft’s Collective Why evolved and what role technology has played in that?
Lyft was founded in 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. Our goal is to increase car occupancy and reduce personal vehicle ownership. Our founders believe that by increasing the occupancy and efficiency of each car, we can reduce the total space needed for cars—turning lanes used for parking into wider sidewalks and bike lanes, parking lots into parks, and generally reducing traffic congestion.
We are constantly innovating through technology and leveraging that to effect positive change for our cities. We are committed to offsetting carbon emissions from all rides by promoting transportation equity through shared rides, bikeshare systems, electric scooters, and public transit partnerships.
There’s so much going on with Lyft right now: your recent IPO, ongoing rideshare debates in British Columbia and your various community and environmental initiatives, among many other things. How are you managing to focus on your mission when there are so many variables at play?
It’s easy to stick to a company’s mission when the values that drive the company are so closely aligned and ingrained in everything we do. We are staying hyper-focused on our vision to steer our company. How we do this may change as we expand with our multi-modal offerings but our goal has remained unchanged.
Lyft was started with a vision for a world we want to live in—one where we spend less time in traffic and more time with each other. It was never about building a better taxi. The goal from early 2007, starting with Zimride, was to replace car ownership entirely. That translates into the kind of company we are working to build.
The Lyft City Works Program is a great example of us taking a stance around building cities around people, not cars. Through this program, we’re committing a minimum of $50 million a year (or 1% of profits, whichever is greater) to the continuous improvement of city life through grassroots transportation initiatives. This initiative is built on three pillars: providing transportation to people who need them the most, developing transportation infrastructure and creating a clean-energy future.
Why is TractionForce the right place to share your story? And what are you hoping the audience will get out of it?
We are excited to connect with Western Canada’s tech sector. As a company, we have been actively engaging in the BC market for quite some time and it’s always great to attend a marquee industry event like TractionForce.
This year’s theme really spoke to us. This conference provides us with a platform to share Lyft’s mission to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation and shift how Vancouverites understand and value car ownership.
What kind of responsibilities do companies have in making the world a better place for all people and not just their customers?
The world’s most respected brands put this at the forefront. In today’s economy, companies have a responsibility to try and make the world a better place for all.
For us at Lyft, we look for companies who have similar values to us and who take action on these values when we look to our various city partnerships. Powerful brand purpose defines a company’s intent to change the world for the better and connects the brand with consumers on a much deeper and personal level.
Canadians have come to expect brands to have a purpose.
How do you, as a company, earn the trust and get the buy-in from the citizens who live in the communities you’re wanting to improve?
Lyft has opened up economic opportunities for people in the cities we operate to supplement their income and support their families. Lyft has connected communities through service to underserved communities and providing a seamless way for residents to explore their cities. Our 2019 Economic Impact Report for Toronto found that 48% of riders explore more areas of their city as a result of using Lyft and 58% are less likely to drive substance impaired due to the availability of Lyft.
We commissioned a study to examine the potential economic impact in British Columbia if Lyft were able to operate here. It showed that Lyft passengers in Vancouver and Victoria would spend an additional $47 million annually at local businesses, Lyft drivers would earn an estimated $37 million in annual income from Lyft rides and the time saved by riders would be valued at an estimated $37.5 million.
We are excited to be a part of the local tech and business community in BC and are already investing in local partnerships and talent.
Ok, Aaron. We’re all waiting with bated breath to find out the latest on ridesharing in British Columbia. Can you provide us with a bit of an update?
It’s clear British Columbians are excited for ridesharing and the benefits that come along with it. They have been demanding it for years. In fact, a recent Ridesharing Now for BC poll found 8 in 10 Lower Mainland residents want ridesharing before the end of the year.
We hope that the province’s upcoming ridesharing regulations will allow us to operate Lyft in the way people have come to expect and enjoy in other cities.
Be sure to check out and join the Ridesharing Now for BC Coalition for all of the most up-to-date news. And of course, download the Lyft app so you’re ready for Lyft off when we go live.