Need a Lyft? Tech student 1st to offer local ride-hailing

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Kyle Ludwig stands with his car in Houghton. Ludwig recently signed up with the ridesharing service Lyft, which expanded to the Upper Peninsula in August.

HOUGHTON — When Kyle Ludwig interned in the Bay Area last year, drivers for ridesharing apps were omnipresent.

Until now, the companies haven’t made inroads in the Copper Country. That changed with Ludwig, who recently started driving with Lyft.

Ludwig, a fifth-year computer engineering student at Michigan Technological University, got into it after finding out from a friend Lyft had expanded to the Upper Peninsula in August.

“I’d mentioned I could use a little spending money while i’m up here going to school, and I like the flexible hours you can get,” he said.

Ludwig applied that night. He met the checklist of requirements, which include being at least 21 years old and having a car from 2005 or later.

In his first two weeks, he’s made about 35 rides. Ludwig doesn’t have set hours, but toggles on and off in the app depending on availability.

Ludwig said he’s been online about seven hours in all so far.

“I’ll be in my apartment working on homework, and somebody makes a request and I’ll head out and pick them up,” he said. “It’s a simple thing to do. It’s a great, flexible work schedule.”

Fares run $3 to $5 on average, while Houghton to Chassell costs under $10, Ludwig said.

With many of his riders coming home from bars, Ludwig has started buying some small bottles of water to have ready. He’s also keeping a pack of small candies with Halloween nearing.

“People love that,” he said. “They’re like, ‘You have candy.’ They love that. It makes their night. I’m really focused on making a good experience for everyone getting in the car.”

Ludwig thinks Lyft is gaining popularity due to being able to make requests on their phone and also tracking the progress of the driver; he usually picks people up about five minutes. The app can also make payments automatically through their bank.

“They don’t have to worry about having the cash on them,” he said.

This is Ludwig’s final year at Tech, but he’d like to see Lyft continue in Houghton. Riders will have more options, he said, while drivers can take on hours of their choosing for some extra cash.

“I think it gives more of the presence those big tech companies are looking for, as far as us keeping up to date with how the world is today,” he said. “In the past, we’ve been fairly isolated.”