As Lyft mulls return of pool rides, rideshare drivers raise COVID, carjacking concerns

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Could Lyft bring back pool rides during the COVID-19 pandemic? Shared rides can save consumers money, but the ABC 7 I-Team is finding that the idea of bringing them back right now is raising health and safety concerns.

Rideshare drivers say the more passengers that are in a car, the bigger target it can be for carjackers. The other concern is simply adding more strangers together in a car with COVID-19 cases rising and the spread of the Delta variant.

"More people in the car breathing and potentially spreading germs in a vehicle versus just sharing it with one party or one person is definitely a concern," said Lenny Sanchez, director of the Independent Drivers Guild of Illinois.

Sanchez said his organization is very concerned about a recent announcement from Lyft, saying "shared" pool rides, with a maximum of 2 riders at a time, would be returning.

"I think it's a real bad idea," Sanchez said. "I know many drivers that are active during the pandemic, they like to disinfect and clean up their vehicle after every single ride. But when you have these shared rides, although there might be a maximum of two passengers in the vehicle at a time, you might be dropping off, we have a single passenger and they get paired up with another one and another one. So it's a long chain of rides that doesn't give a driver the opportunity to clean out and disinfect their cars."

The option is not yet on the app, as Lyft says its "monitoring the COVID-19 situation very carefully."

But Lyft tells the I-Team "...we wanted our most affordable ride option to be available to our riders while providing more opportunities for drivers to earn."

Mask use would still be enforced. Lyft also said middle and front seats would remain empty and that accepting shared ride requests is "completely optional" for drivers.

"If I have too high of a cancelation rate, they will deactivate us, so it is putting everything on the driver," said Sanchez.

He is also concerned about the increased risk of carjackings in Chicago, many which have victimized rideshare drivers in recent months and weeks.

"It's an opportunity for a criminal to get to people like the saint says, two birds with one stone," Sanchez explained. "If the criminal is using the application to rob a driver, they might be bar enticed to find a driver that already has a passenger in the vehicle, who also has belongings that they can steal as well."

Lyft said it encourages all riders to upload a photo to their account and drivers can view names and ratings before accepting. The company also added that it recently rolled out an extra verification feature which requires riders who use anonymous forms of payment, like prepaid cards, to provide additional identification.

Lyft also said that if anyone in the car isn't following health guidelines like distancing and masking, riders and drivers are able to cancel without a penalty.

We'll keep you updated on when the rideshare company puts that shared feature back on its app.
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