Lyft signals capital commitment with new driver support hub in Ottawa

Lyft
Lyft's Ottawa market manager Rob Woodbridge. Photo by Mark Holleron

Ride-sharing app Lyft is doubling down on Ottawa with a lease for a community hub, the tech giant’s first such space in Canada.

The space at 2222 Carling Ave. will act mainly as a support hub for the company’s drivers in the region. Drivers who need help navigating the onboarding process or assistance overcoming other roadblocks in the application can drop by the hub for support from Lyft’s local team, which currently sits at three full-time employees.

The site will have other tangential benefits, says Lyft’s Ottawa market manager, Rob Woodbridge. For one, it’s a logical place to put a lost-and-found for collecting items left behind in drivers’ vehicles.

“Where do you put that in a virtual company?” asks Woodbridge. “Here's the best opportunity to get that stuff back to people.”

The new hub comes more than a year after Lyft announced its expansion to Ottawa to compete with fellow ride-sharing app Uber and established taxi companies in the local transportation market. The San Francisco-based company, which went public earlier this year, tapped tech veteran and Ottawa native Woodbridge to lead its local operations.

Lyft operates more than 50 other hubs and service desks across major cities in the United States, but Woodbridge says this lease in Ottawa – the firm’s first permanent community hub in Canada – represents the company’s commitment to the capital.

Ottawa’s size, in addition to a few other factors, makes it a strategic landing point for Lyft. Woodbridge mentions the city’s sizeable tech sector and federal government presence as a couple points in the city’s favour, but notes that Ottawa’s recent population milestone of one million residents makes it an ideal mid-size metropolis to flesh out Lyft’s market strategy.

“We would love to make Ottawa the playbook for future expansion into other cities."

“We would love to make Ottawa the playbook for future expansion into other cities,” Woodbridge says.

Putting down a dedicated presence for the company’s drivers in Ottawa is part of Lyft’s wider community approach, Woodbridge adds. When the company landed in Ottawa, its first major partnership was with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The company added an option to round up fares to the nearest dollar with extra proceeds going to CHEO.

Initiatives like these help Lyft stand out from the field in the increasingly crowded transportation market, Woodbridge argues.

“It's one of the key differentiators, amongst other things that we're doing in the city, that pushes Lyft in a different light.”