With $6 Rides, L.A. Rideshare Program Helps Under-Served

FlexLA stands out with 70s aesthetic from Portland’s Roundhouse

A groovy vibe for FlexLA. FlexLA / Roundhouse
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Standing out in the rideshare battle can be a daunting proposition. While Uber and Lyft dominate the landscape, some smaller, more local rideshares continue to pop up.

FlexLA in Los Angeles, which debuted last fall, focuses on the downtown L.A. area, providing riders with an affordable option to complement existing public transportation. In a city where driving is a necessity, the on-demand service sees an opportunity to help both veterans and the under-served.

“You have people taking mass transit, but they don’t have the income to be Ubering everywhere,” said Stacy Garnand, director of client services at Roundhouse in Portland, Ore., the agency tasked with marketing the program. “So this was to give people the same kind of (rideshare) experience without having that economic barrier.”

While traditional ride shares offer point-to-point services, FlexLA focuses on specific routes and bus stops, with rides currently $6 per ride, and low-income riders can apply to get a $2 or even a free fare. The service runs between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m., times when public transportation options become more challenging. Additionally, most of the drivers are salaried U.S. military veterans and the Mercedes-Benz vans used are wheelchair accessible.

The project is a collaboration between LA Metro, FASTLinkDTLA, a nonprofit transportation management organization, German mobility company Moovel and other governmental agencies in the city.

“[Each organization] wanted to create something that was more accessible to everyone,” Garnand said.

The service works similarly to any ridesharing program, via a smartphone app developed by Moovel. What’s different, however, is that all of the data from the program, unlike Uber and Lyft, is shared so that the city can have, as Garnand put it, “better information to start doing (better) planning.”

“When you think about a huge metropolitan area like Los Angeles, and how to efficiently move people, traffic is a huge problem they need to solve,” added Garnand. “Not having data (to support planning) is a pretty big blind spot.”

While it’s still early days, and there is hope that the service can expand beyond the downtown L.A. area, Roundhouse was tasked to develop a campaign that would be more visible and command attention. To that end, the aesthetic that the agency landed on was much different than traditional public transportation advertising and is a nod to the area’s arts and fashion districts, as well as its diverse and multicultural community.

Another anchor of the idea stemmed from the notion of independence and self-expression, which were hallmarks of Los Angeles (and the West Coast in general) in the 1970s. The playful, unexpected palette is awash in the decade’s whimsy and soul and is unique from other rideshare branding.

“You could look super ‘tech’ looking with this identity, and Uber has changed their look, for example, but we didn’t want to follow the draft of that. What we fell in love with was looking at the area, and the Arts District,” said Robert Medkeff, creative director at Roundhouse. “The area that FlexLA serves is that heartbeat of Downtown L.A.”

Additionally, a number of the ads promoting the service use language that incorporates the letters “L” and “A,” resulting in pleasing visual puns. While the goal was to make an impact, Medkeff and his team knew that making a real dent meant not overcorrecting in an area that’s filled with advertising clutter.

“In L.A. or most metropolitan areas, there’s so much noise and so much all around you,” he noted. “We wanted to stick out in a good way.”

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@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.