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Lyft’s new green transit strategy involves … parks

A new partnership with Trust for Public Land is putting the public space in public offering

“Take me to the park!”

This morning, Lyft announced a new partnership with The Trust for Public Land, the national park nonprofit that formed in 1972. In the works for nearly a year, the new collaboration begins to bring clarity to Lyft’s City Works initiative, a promise the company made to invest $50 million or 1 percent of profits, whichever is higher, in infrastructure and transit.

The collaboration will fund the creation of seven new parks, targeted in areas that are “park-poor” and underserved, part of the Trust’s Parks for People community impact fund. Lilly Shoup, Lyft’s senior director of policy and partnerships, said the precise locations of the parks will be revealed in the coming weeks. But they will be parks that cities have already approved, with Lyft providing extra financial muscle.

Shoup couldn’t give an exact figure for Lyft’s total park investment, but it will come out of the annual City Works budget. She also provided a somewhat tenuous link between the park project and Lyft’s core transit function.

“This partnership is bringing to life how when we travel differently, we can use land that’s currently used for parking for other things, like parks,” Shoup says. “This shows how a city of the future can provide more opportunities for people.”

Lyft riders can also choose to donate to the Trust for Public Land as part of their Round Up & Donate program.

The Trust for Public Land aims to provide every American with a quality park with a 10 minutes walk from where they live. Currently, one in three Americans does not enjoy that level of park access.

Jennifer Isacoff, the group’s vice president and director of field programs for park development, says the Lyft partnership will focus on advancing these goals. She didn’t mention any specific dollar amount or direction as to where the parks would be, only to say they’ll be in areas where the Trust already has an office.

Lyft’s announcement comes after a number of new transit startups and companies have announced public benefits programs, to mixed results. Scooter unicorn Bird said it would donate money to fund transit infrastructure, a plan that has since been cancelled, Uber pledged to spend $10 million over three years as part of a Fund for Sustainable Mobility to support campaigns for safety and improved transit.

Even Lyft itself has pledged to be a “more multimodal, sustainable transportation company that supports transit equity and safer streets.”

Lyft’s announcement comes on the heels of its recent IPO, where the newly public company finds its stock slightly below initial offering price, and research showing the increased social cost of ride-hailing services, including an increase in miles traveled, gas consumption, congestion, and crashes.

Even though Lyft’s park plan seems unrelated to its goals as a ride-hailing company, it’s not its first foray into investing in social, as opposed to transit, infrastructure. The company has also pledged money to support LA’s bridge housing for the homeless, pledging to give the city $5 million this year.