July 15 (UPI) -- The ride-sharing app Lyft announced Thursday it will start allowing passengers again after putting its riders service on hold for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said it will start up service again in Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver on Monday and slowly expand "to additional markets in the coming months." Lyft said there will be restrictions, like masks for everyone on board, no one in the front seat and limiting the number of passengers.
"We've reimagined shared rides to make them more efficient, reliable and enjoyable for both riders and drivers," Lyft said in a statement on its website. "For riders, this means a seamless experience and a more affordable, reliable ride. For drivers, this means increased utilization, decreased downtime and even more earnings opportunities."
Lyft said it is providing an option where riders can request a ride up to 30 minutes in advance, which they hope will lead to better planning and less idle time waiting for the first available driver.
The ride-sharing company said there will be no additional pickups while on an advance route, allowing for more precise routes and fewer deviations.
Along with mask-wearing, and limiting passengers, there will be no eating and drinking, the front and middle seats will remain open, and riders and drivers will be allowed to cancel rides without penalties.
"As the country reopens, we want our most affordable ride option to be available to our riders," Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer said in a statement. "After a year and a half without shared rides, people are going to love the updates we've made."
The move is welcomed news for passengers and drivers as well. Lyft and its rival ride-sharing app Uber both took a hit financially with the coronavirus pandemic forcing many to stay home instead of travel. The pandemic in April 2020 forced Lyft to terminate nearly 1,000 employees.
An earlier version of this story contained an error about the employees who were terminated. They were not drivers.