Austin bank among early adopters of Lyft program to transport employees

Dec 8, 2014
Austin Business Journal

Ridesharing services using the latest mobile technology have quickly grown in popularity. They've also caught on with at least one unlikely Austin company that operates in a far more traditional sector — banking

Horizon Bank SSB is testing a service established in November by California-based Lyft Inc., a transportation networking company, or TNC. The test is being conducted during the holiday season to give workers alternative transportation when traveling to functions and parties, President James Dyess said

About 48 of its 80 Austin-based employees have signed up for the Lyft for Work service that enables users to contact a driver using a smart phone and track the vehicle's location using a global positioning system — or GPS — to get a ride to and from work

For Horizon Bank, the service is intended to provide convenience in addition to saving money that would typically be used for expensive downtown parking, Dyess said

Horizon Bank has two offices in the Austin area and other Texas offices in Salado and Holland, with a total of 115 employees. In late 2009, Horizon relocated its headquarters from a 6,500-square-foot office in the downtown Scarborough Building to a 13,000-square-foot office across the street in One American Center. An expansion to South Austin is predicted next to house the surging number of bank workers rather than customers, Dyess said

Lyft established the Lyft for Work program to complement its consumer service. But it doesn't provide frequent users and business customers any discount compared with consumers, spokeswoman Katie Dally said

Rival Uber developed a travel management platform called Uber for Business that's designed to enable companies to track how employees travel and operate with a centralized billing system

Lyft and other TNCs have drawn their share of criticism from the taxi cab industry. In October, the City Council approved a measure codifying taxi-like services such as Lyft and San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. The approval came after the Council struck an amendment that would have required drivers to have commercial insurance in effect from the time they turn on their companies' respective smartphone apps used to find fares

The measure, designed as a placeholder set of regulations while a separate committee hammers out permanent rules for transportation network companies, includes rules that give the city greater oversight over the background checks that the companies use to screen their drivers

The Austin Chamber of Commerce encourages the private sector to take a role in mitigating the city's growing traffic problem. As a result, it suggests businesses consider telecommuting, offset shift schedules and alternative modes of transportation such as ride sharing, Senior Vice President Jeremy Martin said

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