Lyft, Exposed for Racist Driving Habits, Promises to Do More for Anti-Discrimination

Lyft car (Spiros Vathis/Flickr)

Ride-sharing app Lyft is taking results from a recent study to heart by tracking drivers’ racist practices when they pick up passengers. Both it and Uber were found to have discriminated against Black riders by declining to offer them services. However, the former is now implementing new screening methods to combat the issue.

In a Dec. 16 response to a letter sent to Lyft and Uber by Senator Al Franken a month earlier about drivers’ racist habits, Lyft’s CEO Logan Green outlined several ways the company sought to regulate discrimination.

Lyft will continue educational monitoring and enforcement efforts, which involved eliminating drivers who cancel too many rides. It also will “enhance our regular thorough review of ride cancellations … by including a focus on cancellation rates and quality of service in ‘minority census tracts.'”

It added such a census tract is one “that has a minority population of at least 30 percent and a median income of less than 100 percent of the area median income.”

Green concluded by committing to safety, which included Lyft identifying riders and drivers by their photos and names once a car is requested. He also vowed the company will evaluate other studies on behavioral patterns as well as their own data on the subject.

The response followed a two-year study by the National Bureau of Economic Research released in October that laid out racist practices by Lyft and Uber drivers. In Boston, it found male passengers who looked Black prompted a cancellation rate of 11.2 percent compared to the cancellation rate of 4.5 percent for males who looked white. When it came to female passengers, women with Black-sounding names were canceled on 8.4 percent of the time, while women with white-sounding names had a 5.4 percent cancellation rate.

Additionally, Black patrons whose drivers did accept their requests in Seattle were subjected to wait times 16 to 28 percent longer than white ones. Specifically, Uber’s affordable option, UberX, caused Black customers to wait 29 to 35 percent longer for a ride than white customers.

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