It took Molly Fording ’23 three tries to find transportation to John Glenn Columbus International Airport last Friday. After discovering that the GoBus, which departs from Gambier once a day, would not get her there in time for her flight, she attempted to book an Uber. It quickly became clear that there were none available. Fording then learned that Lyft was operating in the area and managed to book a ride from Kenyon to the airport a day ahead of her trip.
Lyft has been operating in Knox County since last winter, though at a level of activity far from that seen in large cities. Jeremy Bell, a Mount Vernon resident and local Lyft driver, said that he often drives clients from Gambier into Columbus, and works there for several hours before returning in order to ensure more frequent pickups. This method ensures a constant stream of ride requests in an otherwise irregular schedule of local Lyft users. While Uber does not cater as much to rural areas, Lyft has marketed substantially in Knox County, making it easier for Bell to earn extra money outside his regular work schedule.
“It’s amazing how much he’ll make in just a few hours,” his wife, Brandi Bell, said, adding to Bell’s remark that, in addition to the charge of each ride, he generally gets a tip in cash or through the application. This has a downside for some customers, such as Enrique Thompson ’20. He noted that local taxis—like Madden Transportation, which is going out of business on No 1—generally cost less than Lyft because they don’t charge all the surplus fees that come with using a third-party application.
Thompson has used Lyft to commute to and from his job at Walmart relatively frequently since the service’s arrival to Mount Vernon and reported that, aside from Bell, there seem to be very few drivers available in the area. On the occasion that the bus is not running and Thompson cannot find a friend to drive him to work, he has to schedule a Lyft in advance. “If you’re just in the moment trying to get a Lyft, you’re not going to get a Lyft,” he said.
To resolve availability issues, one driver, who has since stopped working for Lyft, according to Bell, created a Facebook page called Lyft Mount Vernon, OH. The majority of posts on the page asked for rides into Columbus, although in late July, one woman posted asking for a ride to the emergency room. “It’s not a super emergency,” she wrote, “but I should probably go.”
Luckily for Kenyon students, Lyft users will find their experiences to be relatively luxurious. Bell said that, along with keeping the car clean, he keeps it stocked with drinks and snacks for clients. Fording recalled that on her drive back from the airport, “We stopped for gas, and he asked me if I wanted anything from the gas station. I was like, ‘I’m good, but thanks.’”
Music is another part of the Lyft experience for clients. “The one [Lyft driver] with the beard, he likes to play heavy metal,” Thompson said. Bell said he likes to play soft rock when he has a client to make them feel more at ease about riding with a stranger.
Generally, conversation is kept to a minimum. “I usually take early morning rides, so they [the drivers] don’t really bother you,” Thompson said. “You’re tired, they’re tired, they’re just like ‘yeah, I’m giving you a ride. How’s your day going,’ or whatever.”
For Bell, who also drives for DoorDash, a food delivery service in the Mount Vernon area, Lyft serves as an opportunity to get paid for something he loves — driving around and taking in the scenery. “He likes doing it,” Jeremy’s wife said, “It’s good for him. Jeremy is always available, and I think that is one of the main reasons why he is up there [in Lyft’s rating system]. I think he’s doing really well with it.”