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By Lauren Herman

Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations, Lyft

Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations, Lyft

On September 26, 2014, at TEDxSacramento’s “This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change” event, Emily Castor spoke about the fascinating evolution of peer-to-peer exchange networks and the sharing economy. Emily is an original Lyft team member who has helped develop the ride-sharing service into what it is today. She currently serves as Lyft’s Director of Community Relations. 

Let’s now take a ride through Emily’s recent talk.


Need a Lyft?: The Ride-Sharing Service

If you have not heard or used the service, Lyft is a ride-sharing service that has popped up in Sacramento. Whether or not you use Lyft, you may be familiar with its iconic symbol, the pink mustache which can be seen on the front of cars driving throughout your neighborhood.

Individuals with the Lyft app can request a “lyft” from a lyft driver who uses his or her own private vehicle to earn a little extra cash while helping out a fellow neighbor through a shared ride. In order to ensure trust between users, both the driver and rider are given the opportunity to rate one another after the service is complete.

Lyft is an example of collaborative consumption supported by trust and accountability made possible through technology and social media. Only top rated drivers and riders are allowed to be a part of this network.  


Ride-Sharing as Part of the Sharing Economy: Not Only Good for the Economy, but for Society and the Soul

It is no surprise that as one of the original Lyft team members and current Director of Community Relations, Emily not only discusses the changes that Lyft has brought to her own life, but points out the many benefits to society as well.

Emily makes the case that ride-sharing services are not only an alternative transportation model for policy makers and urban planners to consider, especially as the urban population continues to grow worldwide. Such examples of collaborative consumption are transformative agents for our economy and culture that move us closer toward what is called the sharing economy.

Audience at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change"

Audience at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change"

The sharing economy is a movement that aims to increase opportunities to share human and physical resources through collaboration and exchange. Activities within the sharing economy include swapping, exchanging, collective consumption and purchasing, recycling, crowdsourcing, co-operatives, renting, shared ownership and pay-as-you-use economy.

Emily goes on to explain that networks and marketplaces developed through the sharing economy, such as Lyft, make entrepreneurism easier than ever before benefiting the American worker and consumer.

She advocates that these opportunities expand employment beyond the conventional cubical and nine to five hour workweek to meet the needs and skillset of individuals. Popular start-ups following the principles of the sharing economy include Kiva, Airbnb, Etsy and Skillshare.          

According to Emily, the social impacts of the sharing economy are just as important as the potential it can create for our economy in Sacramento. Collaborative consumption marketplaces fuel opportunities to connect community members through in person interactions, but also through networks sustained by trust between strangers both next door and on the other side if the world.

Trust between strangers is a hard concept for many. But, communalism and cooperation promoted through the sharing economy are not untraditional, even for America that prides itself on individualism. Ever checked out a book from the library? Do you have a Netflix account?  A large segment of society shares personal information about themselves online using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


The Case for the Sharing Economy: Another Perspective from the TED Stage

Echoing Emily’s enthusiasm for the societal impact of the sharing economy is fellow TED speaker and researcher Rachel Botsma. Four years ago on the TED stage, Rachel in her TEDTalk, "The Case for Collaborative Consumption," argued that the expansion of the sharing economy is not only inevitable, but an exciting and positive change that satisfies our primal instincts in which cooperation and sharing are necessary for survival.

Rachel states that, “we're taking a leap to create a more sustainable system built to serve our innate needs for community and individual identity. I believe it will be referred to as a revolution, so to speak -- when society, faced with great challenges, made a seismic shift from individual getting and spending towards a rediscovery of collective good.”

In other words, she believes the sharing or collective economy move us from a culture of "me" to a culture of ‘we’ ” that will benefit humanity in the long run.

After all, if on average a car costs $8,000 a year to maintain, but is only used on average one hour a day, it makes sense economically, but also socially to embrace peer-to-peer exchange networks made possible by the sharing economy that allows us to share resources while saving and making money.


From the TEDxSacramento stage to the State Capital: How is Ride-Sharing Impacting the Capital Region 

Emily brings to the TEDxSacramento stage new ways of thinking that are necessary to cope and plan for our changing Capital Region through the exploration of the sharing economy, particularly Lyft.

California has been a leader in technology and start-ups, so perhaps the golden state will lead the way in the development of ride-sharing and the expansion of what is deemed public transportation.

Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento recently wrote a San Francisco Chronicle article praising the innovation that ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, bring to cities, such as Sacramento. Simply put, he believes that “ride-sharing works: it works for the drivers and it works for the customers.” But, not everyone is convinced of the speed and direction in which ride-sharing is developing. 

Emily Castor speaking about the sharing economy at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014.

Emily Castor speaking about the sharing economy at TEDxSacramento's "This Changes Everything: Seeds of Change" event on September 26, 2014.

Recent legislation in Sacramento would require ride-sharing companies in California to carry the same insurance as taxi companies. Many criticize that the evolution of ride-sharing is outpacing regulation. Mayor Johnson has responded by stating such efforts would “discourage innovation and force out-of-date thinking on Next Economy companies such as Uber and Lyft.”

Currently, eight out of ten Americans live in an urban environment. Urbanism will continue to be a trend worldwide. According to a United Nations Population fund report, by 2030, six out of 10 people will live in a city. Knowing the inevitable, can every individual own a private vehicle? In the urban century, there are simply not enough resources. Thus, this discussion of alternative transportation models is necessary.  


The Sharing Economy: Your Turn to Give It a Review

Time will only tell the direction and speed of its development, and how governments will respond to the new services and opportunities of the sharing economy.

Fortunately, you have the opportunity to form your own opinion. Consider joining or using the many opportunities of the sharing economy in our Capital Region and beyond.

  • Want to learn how to make sushi, but do not have the time to take a full semester course? Join Shareskill, and find someone in your region to share this skill with you.
  • Going on vacation soon? Try Airbnb rather than a hotel.
  • Avoiding another trip to Ikea because you do not want to assemble another piece of furniture? Hire someone within TaskRabbit with the experience to do it for you. 

Take Emily’s advance; “tap into economic engine that is the human spirit through sharing.” It’s never been easier! These collaborative consumption marketplaces may not only save you money, but also transform our cultures and economies moving us into the global village of the 21st Century.