Lyft drivers shuttling around San Francisco may have noticed recently that a certain local landmark--a white van levitated several meters in the air on a pole--is looking a familiar shade of pink. Expect to see more of that color in other cities throughout the country within the year.

Lyft on Tuesday is opening Lyft Hub, its first in-person support center for driver-partners. Imagined as a sort of anti-DMV where numbers are replaced with names, the ride-hailing startup's 1099 workers can meet in-person with Lyft associates on issues of onboarding and troubleshooting, as well as take advantage of planned perks not related to driving for the company.

"This is purely about building community among driver partners," says Northern California General Manager Mihir Gandhi.

He declined to share details about how quickly Lyft might open new hub locations in other parts of the country, but said there would be more available to drivers within the year.

Uber started opening similar centers, which the company calls "Greenlight Centers," in 2014. Uber counts roughly 250 such centers globally and 180 in the United States.

The space Lyft is leasing in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood includes a greeting and waiting area stocked various pink candies and Lyft memorabilia, a parking lot where inspections required by the state of California can be conducted by third-party entities, an area of desks and semi-private meeting rooms for meetings between drivers and associates, a classroom that can seat up to 40 people and an attached office for staff dedicated to regional operations.

Previously, the 6,758-square-foot building with a small courtyard housed Bell Plumbing and Drain, whose logo was once emblazoned on the iconic van.

Lyft plans to offer classes and workshops at the hub, starting with workshops where representatives of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority can interact with drivers to explain city transportation policy. Eventually, Gandhi says the company wants to offer classes in areas like English as a second language (ESL), Excel spreadsheet work and tax form preparation.

Gandhi says Lyft modeled the hub on customer and client service operations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple stores and Nordstrom department stores. With regard to the DMV comparison, the company is trying to have a more personal touch, calling drivers by their names instead of by numbers. The company also hopes the center will have a social feel.

Located at 2300 26th Street, the San Francisco center is slated to offer support services 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with 16 to 20 associates on site to interact with drivers as well as other Lyft staff on site as well. Additional onboarding services are slated to be available Mondays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"This is designed to be the area where we serve the drivers who want the personal touch point," he says.

Published on: Sep 12, 2016