The ride-sharing service Lyft is now available in the Detroit Lakes area, through the app that can be found in most mobile phone app stores.
"I’ve been driving for Lyft for about 16 months," said local resident Calaib Heiderich. "A friend of mine was a driver and she told me that’s what she does on the weekends ... I was kind of looking for a little extra weekend income for my kids and such so I tried it."
Lyft and other ride-sharing services differ from other, more conventional ride options, such as DL Transportation Services and Lakes Transit. Lyft transactions — from scheduling to payment to tipping — all take place in the phone app. Drivers use their own vehicles, and set their own hours. And they can operate 24/7.
Today, Heiderich is part of a seven-person Lyft driving team, and maintains a Facebook page under the team's name, Lakes Area Lyft Driver.
The other drivers on Heiderich's team include Travis Funk, Kimberley Smith, Kayla Ohm, Austin Peterson, Anthony Riechling and April Fistler, along with occasional driver Sam Esser.
It's nice to be part of a team, Heiderich said, because when one of them isn't available, or on vacation, another is able to step up and take their place if someone "pings" them for a ride through the app.
Even if they are available at a given time, however, Heiderich says it's up to the individual driver to choose whether or not to accept the request.
"It (the app) will ping me and tell me a ride pickup is so-and-so far away and at that point I can decide whether I want to drive that far or pass it on to the next driver," he said. "My furthest pickup so far has been about 25 minutes out."
While he does have a lighted Lyft sign on his vehicle, Heiderich says, he does not pick up unscheduled passengers that flag him down on the road; everything has to be done through the app.
"If a person were to flag me down that’s considered being a taxi (driver), which I'm not," he explained. "I don't get paid directly by the rider, I get reimbursed through the app."
According to Detroit Lakes City Administrator Kelcey Klemm, taxi drivers are required to be licensed through the city, while ride sharing services are not.
"The city currently does not regulate 'ride sharing services' such as Uber or Lyft," Klemm said in an emailed response to questions. "With that said, a driver should only be dispatched through the ride sharing service’s app or website and cannot be driving around with a 'for hire' sign on their vehicle. If a driver is advertising as a 'for hire' taxi, then they need to obtain a taxi license from the city."
Lyft drivers are required to meet stringent standards set by the company, Heiderich said.
"Lyft does extensive background checks," he said. "You have to have a clean driving record, no criminal record of any sort, and you have to have ride share insurance on your vehicle. Everything has to be up to date and current, and your vehicle can only be so many years old."
The age and type of vehicle allowed to be used for Lyft also varies from one area of the country to the other, Heiderich added. "In some larger cities you can only drive (for Lyft) if you own a specific color of vehicle ... in this area it's a little more relaxed as to what type of vehicle you can drive."
Though Lyft sets the rate that the drivers can charge, that doesn't mean a rider can't leave a tip, Heiderich said.
"Lyft has their rates that they charge and they collect that for each ride I give," he explained. "I get a percentage of that reimbursed to me for driving ... but we are supposed to be able to keep 100 percent of our tips. Lyft doesn't touch any of that."
In addition, Heiderich says, he can set his driving schedule around his daily activities, job and vacation time.
"It's 100 percent my schedule," he said. "I love doing it. I love driving. ... I’ve been an entertainer for years and this is just another outlet for me, entertaining people in my vehicle. I’ve got two disco balls in the back and lights on the floor and all the amenities that people would need.
Since he started driving for Lyft a year and a half ago, Heiderich added, he's completed over 2,000 rides through the app.
"We're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "If you can ping a driver, you can get a ride to wherever you need to go."
For more information about using Lyft's services, or becoming a driver for the company, visit www.lyft.com.