Lyft is on track to hire up to 80 employees for its Seattle office in 2016.
Todd Kelsay, general manager for Lyft’s Seattle office, told GeekWire that the ride-hailing company is set to move into a permanent 11,200 square-foot engineering center at the National Building in Pioneer Square this March.
Lyft already has a handful of employees working out of a temporary office in Seattle, but is hiring fast and will soon have a much larger space at Lyft’s first engineering hub outside of its San Francisco headquarters.
In Seattle, the company will have employees working on DevOps, systems engineering, developer productivity, dispatch technology, and more. The office will also be home for Lyft’s local operations and marketing team, while providing a place for Lyft drivers to ask questions or pick up materials they may need.
GeekWire first reported about Lyft’s expansion plans in Seattle back in September.
“We are here to stay,” Kelsay said. “It’s a very local team focused on making sure Lyft continues on its mission to help make this an even better place to live.”
In September, Lyft said it more than doubled the number of rides and number of active drivers on the Lyft platform in Seattle during 2015. Kelsay wouldn’t provide specific numbers for drivers and riders, but said both continue to grow.
For comparison, Uber said earlier this month that it has 10,000 drivers in Seattle.
Uber and Lyft were legalized in Seattle in June 2014 — though both operated unregulated in the city before that — and have been expanding in the city, with Uber opening its own local engineering center this past March.
The ride-hailing giants are among a large group of tech companies competing for technical talent that have engineering offices in the Seattle region, including giants like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, Salesforce, and more.
Uber, valued at $62.5 billion, has recently been using Seattle as a testbed for new services and product features. Earlier this month it launched a pilot for uberHOP, a new carpooling service. It is also rolling out UberSPOT, a new feature that utilizes LED lights on driver windshields to help customers locate the right vehicle.
Kelsay wouldn’t comment on when Lyft will offer its own carpooling service, Lyft Line, in Seattle. It’s already available in seven other U.S. cities.
“We are really, really focused on making sure we continue to offer an excellent passenger experience in terms of the short time it takes to get a ride, the quality of the driver, and the quality of the overall experience,” Kelsay said.
Beyond their app technology, both Uber and Lyft could be affected by Seattle’s governing body. A new ordinance approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this month gives drivers the right to unionize — the first such law in the nation.
Currently, these drivers are considered independent contractors and are not protected by traditional labor standards — including Seattle’s new $15 per hour minimum wage law. They also do not have collective bargaining rights covered by the National Labor Relations Act.
However, this legislation, first introduced by councilmember Mike O’Brien, creates a way for drivers to gain benefits typically given to employees. Lyft is certainly not pleased with the law, sharing this statement after the council voted unanimously to pass the bill:
“Unfortunately, the ordinance passed today threatens the privacy of drivers, imposes substantial costs on passengers and the City, and conflicts with longstanding federal law,” the company said in a statement. “We urge the Mayor and full Council to reconsider this legislation and listen to the voices of their constituents who choose to drive with Lyft because of the flexible economic opportunity it offers.”
Added Kelsay: “The only thing we can say right now is that the ordinance is not yet in effect, and we will continue to encourage City Council and the mayor to reconsider the legislation.”
Lyft is also waiting for approval from the Port of Seattle to be able to pick up passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Uber and Lyft can drop off riders at the airport, but current regulations prevent them from doing pick-ups.
Uber built a geo-fence around Sea-Tac in its app to prevent uberX riders from requesting a ride. Lyft, meanwhile, still allows people to hail a ride from the terminal, as you can see from the screenshot to the right.
“Right now, we are officially allowed to drop off but not pick up, and that makes for less-than-desirable outcomes for both passengers and drivers,” Kelsay said.
Lyft, which is now valued at nearly $5 billion after raising an additional $248 million last week, also today revealed its first annual “Lyftie Awards” that show the most popular drop-off locations in Lyft’s busiest cities. For example, Peso’s Kitchen & Lounge was the most-visited restaurant; Rhein Haus was the most-visited bar; and CenturyLink Field was the most-visited venue.
“The insights you get from the data suggest that we are becoming a more crucial part of the passenger’s commute and overall transportation plans,” Kelsay said. “It tells us we are succeeding in our mission, which is a wonderful thing.”
Here are the “Lyftie Awards” for Seattle and for the U.S.
Most Visited Restaurant
Peso’s Kitchen & Lounge
Most Visited Bar
Most Visited Event Venue
Most Visited Transit Stop
Seattle Ferry Terminal
Most requested local drop-off
Pike’s Place Fish Market
Most Visited Restaurant
Tacolicious, San Francisco
Most Visited Bar
The Abbey, Los Angeles
Most Visited Coffee Spot
Most Visited Business School
Harvard Business School