A Lyft with Rob Woodbridge: Merging transportation with social impact

Since its launch in Ottawa over a year and a half ago, operating as a socially responsible company has been a primary focus of San Francisco-based rideshare company Lyft. 

“I believe as a good corporate citizen you are responsible to do right by the city,” says Rob Woodbridge, general manager for Lyft in Ottawa. “How can we contribute to the greatness of this city? How can we contribute to the well-being of this city?”

By promoting existing campaigns and expanding established deep-rooted initiatives to Ottawa, Lyft continues striving to support the fabric of Ottawa beyond its transportation network.  

Here are a few examples:

Round Up & Donate

When launching in Ottawa, Lyft partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario through its “Round Up & Donate” initiative embedded within the app. When riders opt to Round Up & Donate through the “Donate” button under the “Menu” section of the app, their ride fare will be rounded up to the nearest dollar with the difference going to CHEO. 

Wheels for All

In August, Lyft re-launched its Wheels for All grants program – which aims to alleviate transportation barriers – and committed $500,000 in free or discounted rides across 40 cities. It initially launched in the United States in January 2018 and reached Canada in February 2019. 

With its expansion into Ottawa, any registered charity or non-profit operating in the Ottawa area is eligible to apply for a $1,000 grant donated quarterly.

Ottawa recipients include Connected Canadians and Miracle League of Ottawa.

Connected Canadians promotes digital literacy skills for older adults and seniors through providing technology training and support. Miracle League of Ottawa is Ottawa’s only fully accessible and inclusive recreational facility offering competitive and recreational sports programming. 

Lyft aims to reach organizations where transportation and mobility are integral in the applicant’s mission or operation so that ride credits can help further their efforts within the community.

“These people are doing tremendous work in the community,” Woodbridge says. “We’re trying to find a way we can help support them, help support their transportation needs.”

Woodbridge says providing $1,000 in ride credits either fills a need for transportation or if a recipient has a transportation budget it can pour the funds back into their programming rather than spending on transportation. 

“If an organization needs to send volunteers to go out and assist people who they’re servicing, this is one of those opportunities where you can use Lyft and community grants to be able to do that,” Woodbridge explains. “If your volunteers work late for an event, the idea is, ‘Let’s get them home safely,’ as a result of these grants. “

Grocery Access Program

Along with Round Up & Donate and Wheels for All, Lyft brought its established Grocery Access Program to Ottawa. By working with the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation, Lyft provides discounted rides to and from select grocery stores for low-income families who do not have access to a grocery store by means of walking or public transportation. 

“They live in a grocery desert where they can’t access fresh food,” Woodbridge says. 

To alleviate grocery insecurity Lyft offers rides to and from select grocery stores for a flat rate fee of $2.50 in each direction.

“These are just examples – small examples – of what we’re trying to do in the community…to contribute to Ottawa’s greatness,” Woodbridge says. “A big part of being apart of the city is being ingrained in the city, being a good corporate citizen for the city of Ottawa and that means working closely with organizations that are making a huge difference.”

Learn more about how Lyft is changing the way Ottawa residents move around the city here.