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Lyft faces its big moment to leap ahead of Uber

The ride-hailing company announced Thursday that it's expanding to more than 50 additional US cities. USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO — Is this Lyft's moment to really lift off?

Uber, the company's larger ride-hailing rival, has been hit with a string of bad press lately related to a misbehaving CEO, claims of sexist supervisors, a report it deceived law enforcement and a lawsuit over allegedly stolen intellectual property.

And that's all after a #DeleteUber campaign related to Uber's initial response to President Trump's immigration travel ban led 200,000 riders, according to a New York Times report, to dump the service.

“Lyft is seeing some openings and they’re making the most of them,” says Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.

Despite being the underdog in this fight, Lyft President John Zimmer told USA TODAY months ago that his mission was to own the U.S. market and let Uber take the rest of the world. This would seem an opportune time for Zimmer and his team to make big strides.

The service recently announced that it had opened 96 new markets this year, bringing its total to 300 cities. And the company is raising $500 millionto turbocharge its efforts, according to a person familiar with the effort who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Lyft is gaining

Spending data suggests Lyft already has received a discernible bump from Uber's ongoing issues.

The week before the #DeleteUber campaign in late January, Uber had 83.5% of the ride-hailing market and Lyft had 16.5%, according to TXN Solutions, which tracks debit and credit card spending.

But Uber's troubles resulted in market share gains for Lyft, which had 20.9% of the market following #DeleteUber. It got another bump to 21.3% after Uber ex-engineer Susan Fowler's incendiary February blog post alleging blatant sexism at the company.

The decline in Uber's market share was consistent in all four of its top markets: New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, TXN found.

At the same time, spending nationwide on Uber in the four weeks after Jan. 30 declined 2% compared to the prior four weeks, while Lyft spending jumped 30%. The #DeleteUber campaign gathered momentum on Jan. 30 after a weekend of protests against the travel ban.

Former Uber user Marian Baldauf says she was bothered by stories about Uber’s aggressive corporate culture, but the service was so convenient that she didn’t take action.

That changed when she read Fowler's Feb. 19 post. “When I read that woman’s blog it was just so deeply offensive and so wrong in so many ways that I just couldn’t do it anymore," says Baldauf. "So I switched to Lyft. I’ve taken two rides since and they’ve been wonderful."