BREAKING: USC will not bring back single-ride Lyft service

The shared ride program is here to stay, Folt said in an interview with Annenberg Media.

A photo of a a red hatchback bar with Uber and Lyft stickers.

Single-rider Lyfts will not be returning to USC students’ phones anytime soon, USC President Carol Folt said in an interview.

The free Lyft program, known to students as “fryft,” started in 2016 as a way to provide students with free Lyft rides in the nearby areas to the USC campus. Originally, those free rides were provided via Lyft’s shared-ride program, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, USC started providing free single rides.

This program provided users with the opportunity to use Lyft to get rides around campus for free between 6 p.m. and 2 p.m. most nights and students became accustomed to the program. However, in January 2023, USC announced the decision of reversing the program to a shared-ride mode.

USC students have expressed concerns as the switch to shared rides brought long waits for a Lyft, with some students saying the shared-Lyft model also brought safety concerns, such as women having to ride cars with strangers or students having to walk home or to class at night.

Other students have also proposed solutions, but the administration has been determined to not restore the single-ride mode. Students’ fume reached a peak after seeing the raise in the tuition, which is 5% for the 2023-24 school year.

“It’s a really complicated situation right now because inflation is almost double the rate that we even added in tuition,” Folt said. She said that the financial increases are necessary, “but they don’t even begin to cover the costs that we have.”

However, Nico Andrade, a senior majoring in civil engineering, didn’t find the reason acceptable.

“The whole point of Fryft is for the safety of students and it doesn’t really make sense to have kids be put in random situations with people they don’t know just for the sake of saving money,” Andrade said.

Folt mentioned in the interview that USC is constantly looking for other ways to get revenue to be aggressively added to the financial pool, “but right now, that’s how we mostly deal with it, which is that we continue to make our financial aid cover additional costs.”

Ever since the university switched back to a shared-ride model, Fryft has been a big topic at USC.

USG president-elect and vice president-elect Divya Jakatdar and Michelle Lu have commented on President Folt’s statement and said they will continue to advocate for a safer model of Fryft, even if it does not look exactly like the version prior to this shared model. Jakatdar and Lu originally ran their campaign with the promise to expand the Lyft service, including a return to a single-ride model.

Nikhita Rao, a sophomore majoring in media arts and practice, said that she understood the financial burdens, but with USC’s rising tuition, the educational resources should have been improved.

Another sophomore, Amia Roach-Valandra, expressed a similar concern. “I hope they were able to put the saved money into other expenses, for instance, the Native American program, and put that saved money into the different cultural programs here at USC.”

Rao and Andrade have both mentioned USC’s football coach Lincoln Riley, who is the second highest-paid college football coach for the 2022 season and bought a mansion for $17 million last year.

“It’s a bit hypocritical,” Andrade said.

Rao agreed. “The administration is not taking into account our safety. There are things that you can buy that would help a lot of students feel better and safer.”

In an interview with Annenberg Media, Folt mentioned the possibility of assessing the issue going forward, but that they have no current plan to do so for now.

“That’s not how we started. I think we’re sticking with the new model,” Folt said.

USC also announced a $93 fee per semester for transportation, which is “being assessed to offset the rising costs of providing transportation services to the USC community and to provide new benefits,” which USC says it’s meant to “offset the rising costs” related to the Lyft program, as well as a Metro pass for students and a shuttle to LAX, which USC has previously offered, complimentary with tuition.