The Time Lyft Charged Its Employees to Park in a Free Lot

Photo credit: Kārlis Dambrāns, CC BY 2.0.

I know that Lyft is supposed to be the “good version” of Uber, but, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, there was this one time in 2014 when they charged their employees for what should have been free parking.

“The Peculiar Parable of the Lyft Lot,” which is an animated graphic article (not that kind of graphic, the other kind) tells the story of what happened when Lyft hired too many employees for its available parking spaces:

Lyft saw itself as a revolutionary transportation company. Two employees [Curtis Rogers and Evan Goldin] wanted to use the lot to show that free parking was obscuring the true cost of driving to work.

I’m not really sure what that sentence means either. But the point is that Lyft decided to rent parking spots to employees. The building Lyft was working out of had a private parking lot, so… I guess it was okay for them to do this?

Instead of charging by the hour or by the day, Lyft charged employees $200 per spot per month. It gave people who wanted a parking space a $100 monthly credit, and gave people who didn’t want a parking space a $50 monthly bonus. It also set up a Facebook group where people who weren’t planning to use their parking spot that day could sell it to someone else for $10.

(Yes, that means the value of a parking spot is $200 month when you purchase it and $240 or $250 per month when you sell it, depending on how many workdays are in a month. It’s worth even more if you work weekends.)

You won’t believe what happened next:

The invisible hand pushed Lyft in the direction Rogers and Goldin had hoped. The price of parking rose as Lyft continued to hire.

Ya think? (Also, this seems less about the ghost of Adam Smith and more about Lyft being able to charge what they want for parking, and choosing to do so.)

Anyway, the costs keep going up, the employees who can’t afford parking spaces either use public transportation or, you know, whatever people who can’t afford things do, and Lyft keeps this up until they move into a new building that doesn’t let them run their own parking lot.

Does this change the way we think about Lyft? Or is this kind of company behavior just par(king) for the course?

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