Hannah Parish joined Lyft in August 2019 in the newly created role, General Manager of Ontario, and she oversees operations in the province.
We got a chance to sit down with Parish in Toronto and she shared her greatest insights on transportation, gave us her take on what a true integration with bus operators would look like, and provided her perspective on the biggest travel-related disruption of the last few decades.
Q: In your first 120 days of working at Lyft, what has been your most significant observation about transportation?
It continues to amaze me how integrated transportation is to the life of nearly every person that lives in a city. I’m equally impressed by the opportunity travel providers have to improve people’s lives.
At Lyft, our goal is to help build cities around people, not cars. Cities are densifying. Toronto for example today holds 4 people per square meter, but will continue to densify and is forecasted to get to 8 people per square metre in a few decades. It’s not physically possibly to expand, so we’re building up. We’re losing a lot of the green space we used to have, and that house with the white picket fence is not exactly a reality for most people anymore.
Public space is becoming so important. Green space is the only space we have to live, get outside, exercise, and have a picnic with the kids. In Toronto, where does green space come from when 27% of real estate is roads? If we want to build cities around people, we need to take back some of that road space.
Cars are parked 95% of the time. Our goal at Lyft is to make it easier for people not to own one. Once you start taking cars off the road, you have areas where sidewalks bump out, areas for families to live their lives, more parkettes, and a ton of other benefits. Lyft is uniquely positioned to do that and I’m really excited about it.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about your new role?
The people I work with. We have a wonderful set of values at Lyft which are:
- Be yourself
- Uplift others
- Make it happen
When I put ‘be yourself’ and ‘uplift others’ together, it has resulted in this incredible mix of talented, hungry, and creative group of people, that I get to come to work with, every day. I get to show up as my authentic self.
We want to do everything we can to promote inclusion and diversity. We have an initiative called UpLyft Out. It was recently transgender awareness week and those who identify as transgender have been sharing their stories at Lyft. We make conscious room every day, for everyone to be themselves. Whether that’s sharing your story, being an ally, or simply having room to breathe.
As a leader, my personal values are safety, kindness, and candor. I want to work at a company where everyone has the space to be themselves.
Q: You’ve been quoted as saying, “I’m passionate about getting people out of their cars.” How do you hope to fulfill your passion working at a ridesharing company?
I believe in the power of the right transportation choice at the right time. I believe that getting us out of cars improves our mental health and our physical health. It gives us back the most important thing in our lives: time.
Lyft isn’t just a ridesharing company, it’s a transportation company. We offer bikes, scooters and nearby transit information in many of our markets. In fact, we’re the largest bikeshare operator in North America. Everything we do is about making transportation easier, giving people back more time in their day so they can be there to support their families and do what they need to do.
As we in cities become more transportation agnostic, having one place where you can go for all your transportation needs as a rider or driver, makes our lives even easier, and gives us back our time.
There are also monetary benefits to getting people out of their cars. The average cost of a car in Canada is $1000 a month when you factor in gas, insurance, and maintenance. Lyft makes it easier to not own a car; in fact 68% of in Toronto cite Lyft as one of the reasons it’s easier not to own a car. We think it's an economic, environmental, and societal benefit that more people are choosing to share a Lyft rather than drive themselves.
Q: A common pain point of bus travellers is not being able to get door-to-door service. In your opinion, what does a true integration with bus operators, and other transportation partners look like?
It goes back to the concept of the right transportation option at the right time. It’s also about having options. If I’m travelling hours away to get up North, for example, I don’t want to take a Lyft the entire way. I’m likely going to drive. There are many advantages to getting around by bus, and then maybe connecting with Lyft for the first or last mile. I like to think of it as 1+1 = 3 when transportation organizations function as a community. It’s a natural cooperation that really provides the consumer with a better outcome.
Q: Do you think most people will not own cars 20 years from now?
I hope so. Car ownership occurs in 10-year cycles, and the number of cars in a household has gone down in America over the past decade. On my 16th birthday I was getting my driver’s license, whereas my younger brother waited to drive until he was 31! We’re seeing an increase in the average age that people are starting to drive.
While I currently own a car, I don’t touch it until Friday when I leave the city for the weekend. It’s really about using the right transportation option when you need it.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important transportation-related disruptive technology that has taken place recently?
It’s not technology, it’s enabled by changes in technology. The most disruptive transformation is actually the change in the consumer’s mindset, from being transportation habitual to transportation agnostic.
“If I am going out for dinner, I'll take a Lyft. If I want to avoid traffic, I'll take a bike." People are now thinking like this.
Consumer mindset changes, enabled by a cashless society and connectivity, are creating the most important disruption in transportation.
Q: What’s the best part of the next thing you’re doing (personally or professionally)?
I sit on the board of Women in Transportation, a group with a goal to increase the number of women in the industry. It’s important to achieve more of a balance, for example, in getting more women around boardroom meeting tables.
Mentorship also ties into this and it is an area where I like to get involved. It’s not about giving advice or answers, it’s about creating that safe space, about understanding you’re not alone, giving women the opportunity to bounce ideas. As a mentor, I selfishly feel like I get more out of it than I give.
We have some amazing women at Lyft, and we all help each other. We think about the role everyone can offer.
Q: Who is the person you most admire within the industry or externally?
This is such a hard question as there are so many great people I can think of. The GM of the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services, Barbara Gray, is a transportation bad ass! I’ve had the privilege of working with her a little bit. She has encouraged me to encourage other women to have a louder voice in transportation.
Uplift others, but also know there’s room for everyone in challenging the status quo. She’s the one I can learn a lot from.
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