Lyft’s new Ontario general manager noncommittal on company’s plans in Canada

Lyft Canada has hired its first general manager for Ontario, bringing in Hannah Parish, a former director at General Motors (GM), to oversee the ridesharing companies operations in the province.

In her new role, Parish will lead business operations for the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, including driver and passenger acquisition. She will also be working closely with the local marketing and partnerships team.

Lyft called the recent addition of Parish a demonstration of its commitment to “building a strong presence in Canada.” Parish, who officially took on the role three weeks ago, recently sat down with BetaKit to discuss her new position. However, the new general manager was vague on exactly what that “strong presence” might look like for the company.

Lyft has been offering ridesharing in Canada for more than a year and a half, having entered the Canadian market in December 2017. Aaron Zifkin, formerly of Airbnb, joined as managing director for Canada at the time, with plans to begin operations in the Greater Toronto Area and expand from there.

Making transit more achievable

Parish is the former global director for GM’s ebike division, Ariv, where she helped lead the company’s exploration into the new sector. “[What I was doing at GM] it wasn’t working on the car side, it was teaching this big old car company how to move into micro-mobility,” she stated, noting that it was her passion for micro-mobility to drew her to Lyft.

Hannah Parish, general manager of Ontario for Lyft Canada.

“I’m really excited to bring the Lyft mission to Toronto … [the Lyft mission] is to improve people’s lives with the most reliable and the best transportation,” Parish said. “Improving people’s lives really means for me, and for Lyft, building cities around people, not around cars.”

Parish stated that Lyft sees its transportation goals as more than ridesharing, spanning partnerships with transit systems, and a whole gambit of transportation options, including bikes and scooters. She pointed to the company’s recent announcement of a partnership with Metrolinx, which sees Lyft serving as “the official rideshare partner” for four Go Transit stations, including Exhibition, Oakville, Unionville, and Bramalea.

The six-month pilot will see Lyft-specific pickup and drop off zones at each of the stations. As part of the pilot, Lyft is also offering four dollars off of its users’ next five rides to those GO Transit partner stations, between July 1 and December 3.

“The partnership with Metrolinx really helps us alleviate congestion around those Go stations, making transit more achievable and approachable for a lot of different people,” Parish told BetaKit. “And that’s what ride sharing is, it’s about really sharing the movement, and then you get into share bikes, shared scooters, whatever mode of transportation is right for that person. [That is what] helps build cities around people in a really frictionless way.”

While Parish would not offer details on whether Lyft sees this GO Transit partnership expanding in the future, she did note that the company is open to working with other transit systems in the province.

Expansion plans

The new general manager also remained mum on exactly what regions Lyft hopes to expand into next. The company currently operates in nine cities, (all in Ontario), including Toronto, Ottawa, Oshawa, Hamilton, and a number of cities and towns in the Greater Toronto Area.

The announcement of Parish’s appointment follows last week’s announcement from Lyft that the ridesharing company plans to begin operating in Vancouver by the end of the year. The announcement follows an extended battle within British Columbia, that has seen ridesharing services, including Lyft and Uber, being shut out of the province.

“We’re going to work with regulators around the province and we’re going to work with our colleagues in the US to continue to grow.”

Vancouver would mark the third major Canadian city that Lyft has entered, with existing operations in Toronto and Ottawa. The BC government first introduced legislation that would finally allow ridesharing companies to expand into the province in November 2019. However, Lyft’s plan to open in the city is still facing roadblocks, especially around the class of license that ridesharing drivers might be required to hold.

In March, an all-party standing committee on Crown corporations released its recommendations for how ridesharing should be rolled out in BC, voting for a class four license requirement. However, companies like Uber and Lyft are hoping the provincial government will approve ridesharing drivers with a class five license.

“We feel really good about the conversations we’ve had with the Passenger Transportation Board,” Fatima Reyes, communications lead in Canada at Lyft, noted to BetaKit. She argued that the test for the class four license, that may be required, is not necessarily relevant to potential Lyft drivers.

“[The class four test] is just not something that someone who’s driving for less than 10 hours in a regular sedan has to know,” Reyes stated. “So that’s the issue that we’re having right now, but we feel good that we can apply [for licensing] in September.”

RELATED: What’s stopping Lyft and Uber from coming to BC?

Lyft and its fellow ridesharing companies may also have the option to expand into Eastern Canada within the next year. According to Global News, Halifax Regional Municipality staff have been meeting with Lyft and Uber to discuss what bringing ridesharing to the city would look like. City staff have been discussing the regulations that would be necessary, and are expected to deliver a report on Uber and Lyft by November, with Halifax council then debating the regulations.

Lyft told BetaKit that it is “in conversations with regulators across the country in the hopes of bringing Lyft to more cities in Canada in the future.”

“What I can tell you is we’re really, really excited to continue to share the Lyft love in all sorts of different ways,” Parish said. “We’re going to work with regulators around the province and we’re going to work with our colleagues in the US to continue to grow what that looks like.”

Also potentially indicative of Lyft’s plans to continue growing its Canadian presence is the fact that the ridesharing company is continually expanding its team. Currently sitting at 30 people, Lyft Canada also has eight open job posting across Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Parish told BetaKit that the numbers are changing all the time, and while she wouldn’t share what that might mean for Lyft’s plans moving forward, said that Lyft is “always” looking to increase its presence.

“Expansion is not just geographical, it’s a number of different ways. So the more that we have to share, the more we’ll bring,” she said.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.