Lyft, the on-demand ride-sharing app best known by the fuzzy pink moustaches on its cars, launched its service Thursday in Lexington, Louisville and 22 other new U.S. markets.
To mark the occasion, the rapidly growing taxi-like service is offering free rides in its new markets through May 8.
Lyft.com's expansion nearly doubles the startup's U.S. markets and includes smaller cities including Fresno, Calif.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Corpus Christi, Texas.
The move comes as rival Uber (Uber.com) also launched Thursday in Louisville and last month in Cincinnati. It's available in 100 cities worldwide.
San Francisco-based Lyft says it is now available in 60 U.S. cities, up from just one — San Francisco — at the beginning of 2013. It launched in Cincinnati last month.
Lyft works through a smartphone app available at Apple's App Store, Google's Android marketplace and at Lyft.com. The app charges the rider payment from a saved credit card and operates as a sort of hybrid between a citizen-operated taxi and a bespoke car service. Drivers are hired locally and receive 80 percent of the passenger payment.
A Lyft client can request a ride with a single tap, watch the route of the approaching car and rate the experience afterward.
Prices for rides in Lexington, according to a fare table at Lyft.com, will be calculated based on a combination of time and distance. Charges are stated on the site as $1.90 a mile and 30 cents a minute. There is a $1.20 pickup fee and a $1 fee for "trust and safety," which the company says goes to support safety standards and pay for driver background checks and liability insurance. The minimum fare is $5. There is a $5 cancellation fee.
Lyft says it will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Lexington. Its service area covers most of Fayette County.
Ride-sharing apps are growing in popularity as people look beyond cabs and car rentals to get around. But they also face regulatory scrutiny and opposition from traditional taxi services.
In Cincinnati, officials say Lyft and Uber might be violating the city's laws governing taxicabs, but The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that city leaders are considering changing those rules.
The city of Columbus, Ohio, sued Uber earlier this month, claiming that the service violates its public vehicle laws.
Last week, the Ohio Department of Insurance warned Uber and Lyft riders and drivers in that state to check their insurance policies for potential gaps that could leave them without coverage in a wreck.