Fasten Looks to Join Boston’s Ride Hailing Market

The start-up ride hailing app wants to hang with Lyft and Uber.

The rapid growth of Uber and Lyft is not scaring off possible competitors in the hypercompetitive Boston ride hailing market.

Fasten entered the Boston market last month with the promise of offering the exact same service as Uber and Lyft but with some quirks that may help it secure a seat at the ride hailing table.

The company plans to offer better pay for drivers by taking just $1 per ride instead of at least a 20 percent commission, as is customary for ride hailing apps. Drivers can waive the $1 per ride fee if they pay $20 a day or $80 a week upfront to connect with possible passengers.

In a possible win for consumers, Fasten plans to not participate in the practice of “surge pricing” during times of peak demand. The company says it will leave it up to riders to choose if they are willing to pay more than their fellow passengers in order to catch a ride.

“Supply and demand is great. But because [Uber and Lyft] are commission-based, they fail to supply service and they charge more for it,”said chief operating officer Vlad Christoff in an interview with the Boston Globe.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Christoff  said the company is offering this kind of service because they are expecting a high volume of rides.

“The only way this works is you squeeze in the middle as a company. What we want is rides. The only way to do this is make it more affordable for your riders,” said  Christoff.

Another quirky feature the company currently offers is a flat $5 fare for any ride under 20 minutes. When the ride lasts longer than 20 minutes, the “meter” starts running and the fare goes up.

The company is backed by a support team of over 80 people in Russia and the financial largesse of its chairman, Evgeny Lvov.

The biggest challenge for Fasten will not be any changes to the regulatory climate or hostility from the entrenched taxi cartels but earning recognition with consumers. Uber is clearly the big kid on the block but Lyft has managed to hang with the ride hailing behemoth in the United States. Lyft is in the middle of a major publicity push in Boston with ads plastered all over the city and an ample ride promotion budget.

It will probably take at least a year before Fasten carves away enough space in Boston to survive or pivot to something different like Sidecar.