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Lyft brings carpool feature to Los Angeles, despite dispute

Looking to help cut down on gridlock, the peer-to-peer car service rolls out Lyft Line in one of the most traffic-congested cities in the country.

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Lyft began testing a carpool feature called Lyft Line in San Francisco and is now bringing it to Los Angeles. Lyft

Amid carpool controversy with California regulators, Lyft announced Tuesday that it's launching its Lyft Line feature in Los Angeles. The ride-sharing service said it sees this carpool feature as a good fit for Los Angeles as a way to reduce the city's notorious traffic congestion.

"Los Angeles is often ranked the country's most traffic-congested city, but it will only take one small change to fix this city's legendary gridlock problem: increase vehicle occupancy," Lyft wrote in a blog post. "Eighty-eight percent of drivers during commute hours travel alone -- adding more passengers to each vehicle will decrease the number of cars on the road, and subsequently reduce congestion."

Lyft announced last month it was testing its Lyft Line carpool feature in San Francisco. The idea is to let strangers in multiple locations, but heading the same direction, share rides and split fares. Lyft said passengers can save an average of 30 percent to 40 percent off a ride with Lyft Line -- and up to 60 percent depending on the ride. The company's competitors, Uber and Sidecar, have also begun testing similar carpool services.

Los Angeles City Council Member Mitch Englander has said he supports bringing Lyft Line to his city.

"The shared rides Lyft Line provides have enormous potential to lessen traffic gridlock, improve air quality, and increase affordable transportation options," Englander said in a statement. "Los Angeles continues to embrace innovative solutions to our infrastructure challenges and I'm excited to see the role Lyft Line can play in reducing the number of cars on our roads and freeways."

However, the California Public Utilities Commission seems to think differently. The state regulatory agency issued a warning to all three companies over their carpool features last week -- saying it's illegal under California law to charge passengers an individual fare when carrying multiple people in one vehicle.

Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar have all said they're willing to work with regulators to remedy the situation. A Lyft spokesperson told CNET that the company sees Lyft Line as more of a casual carpool feature rather than something like a multi-stop charter service, which is what it seems the law is addressing.

"We encourage the CPUC to interpret this rule from a 21st century position that puts consumers first and in a way that fits the spirit of the law," the spokesperson said. "We have received an overwhelming response from Californians in support of Lyft Line and we will continue to work closely with the CPUC, as we've done since 2012, to secure a future for this innovative option throughout the state of California."

CNET has contacted the CPUC about Lyft's announcement and will update this report when we learn more.

Lyft's Los Angeles launch will roll out on a limited basis for the next couple of weeks and then become available to the entire city.