Lyft, city partner on flat fare for South and West Baltimore residents buying groceries

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Image via Lyft.

Under an agreement with the city, Lyft drivers will take residents of some South and West Baltimore neighborhoods to buy groceries for a flat $2.50 fare, no matter the distance traveled to get to the store.

The Grocery Access Program, as it’s called, will give eight rides to the store per month, from Nov. 18, 2019 to April 30, 2020, to 200 car-less residents who live in healthy food priority areas, previously known as food deserts, without a neighborhood grocery store offering nutritional foods such as fresh produce.

At a press conference this morning Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young cited research from Morgan State University that shows a majority of Baltimoreans, regardless of income, like to go to more than one grocery store, and don’t always patronize the one closest to their home.

“But given that a third of our residents do not have vehicle access, and that many live in healthy food priority areas without a grocery store nearby, we need solutions that specifically support these residents,” he said. “This innovative rideshare pilot not only helps people get to and from the grocery store, but also reduces travel time and puts money back into the pockets of residents so they are able to buy more healthy food.”

The median household income in Baltimore’s healthy food priority areas is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, set at $25,750 for a family of four, according to the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative. Two nonprofit health providers, Total Health Care and Family Health Centers of Baltimore, have been selected to identify possible participants in the program.

The criteria for West Baltimore is people living in the boundary of W. North Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, W. Mulberry Street, W. Franklin Street, Edmondson Avenue and Hilton Parkway without access to a personal vehicle. In South Baltimore, the program covers residents of Cherry Hill, Lakeland or Westport. Registration starts today.

A 2019 economic impact report provided by Lyft said 58 percent of rides in Maryland start or end in a low-income neighborhood.

Per a 2018 article in Wired, a UCLA study found that rideshares were more equitable than the taxi cabs they are supplementing or replacing. Almost all the neighborhoods in Los Angeles County were reached by rideshare companies, and that low-income residents accounted for more trips than high-income ones.

But African-American users of the app had to wait an average of 1 minute and 43 seconds longer for their driver to arrive.

Mike Heslin, general manager for Lyft Baltimore, said he’s “confident” the program “will make healthy food accessible for hundreds of families in south and west Baltimore.”

Through the partnership between Lyft, the city, the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corporation and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, the following stores are participating:

West Baltimore:
Save A Lot (250 McMechen St.)
Shoppers (2000 Gwynns Falls Pkwy.)
Save A Lot (3427 Clifton Ave.)
Giant #317 (4624 Edmondson Ave.)
Food Depot (2495 Frederick Ave.)
Price Rite (1205 W. Pratt St.)
Streets Market & Cafe (222 N. Charles St.)
Eddie’s of Mt. Vernon (7 W. Eager St.)
Save A Lot (1101 Pennsylvania Ave.)
Safeway (2401 N. Charles St.)

South Baltimore:
ALDI (3140 Washington Blvd.)
LA Mart (2159 W Patapsco Ave.)
Price Rite (1205 W. Pratt St.)
Shoppers (857 E. Fort Ave.)
Harris Teeter (1801 Whetstone Way)
MegaMart (3400 Annapolis Road) (this store is “coming soon”)

Brandon Weigel

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