Need a lyft?
// Posted by Celia on 01/18/2013 (10:58 PM)
As cities become increasingly crowded, finding taxis and getting around can be quite a task. Especially if you do not have a car of your own. Now, thanks to a few startups, navigating cities has become easier and more pleasant. Just look at the Lyft service in San Francisco. Founded on the platform of friendliness, Lyft offers a ride with a smile that is supposed to be an experience that parallels a “friend with a car on demand.” (Lawler, 2012) In order to become a Lyft user, you must download the app. The app works with GPS in the drivers phone to trace the cars and find a lyft near you. You can then request the car to bring you from point A to point B. Another service similar to Lyft is Uber, which started in San Francisco also but has moved to Boston, New York, Washington DC and more. Uber is slightly more luxurious and offers cars with the town-car/limousine effect. Lyft offers a rate similar (and sometimes cheaper) to hailing a cab, while Uber’s prices equate to about a cab and a half. Both are iPhone operated and working on Android apps. Uber faced backlash from city governments that argued against using GPS as a commercial mechanism as well as stating that the cars are not licensed cabs. Some critics claim that because the drivers are unlicensed, the user is at a higher risk. The truth is though, that the services use a multi-step, intensive background check to scan and test its drivers. In every city so far, the controversy has settled and Uber deemed officially legal.
With new startups like Lyft and Uber changing the way people move around cities, what will happen to the yellow taxis of New York City? Will there still be a need? As the app-run car companies become more popular, the influence on the existing street cab economy is unclear. Lyft and Uber offer more personal relationships with drivers and each user and driver has the chance to rate the other on experience, friendliness, cleanliness and more. This rating is then used for your profile and for example, someone with a higher score is more likely to get picked up than someone with a lower score. Convenience is a key factor; users have existing accounts, making the transaction cash/credit card free because the fee is just added to the account. People will theoretically no longer need to wait in the rain for a car, or run to the ATM to be sure to have cash for a cab. These small conveniences make a meaningful difference to a lot of users.
In my personal experience, both of these services have come in extremely useful in different situations. While Uber’s service is somewhat pricey in comparison to a normal taxi, I was able to get a car right outside of Grand Central Terminal in NYC around the holidays, a feat that is nearly impossible. In San Francisco, I took the Lyft service multiple times because street taxis were few and far between. In every instance, the driver was friendly and chatty. One driver even offered beverage and snack services! My experience with both services was more pleasant than an average taxi service and I would endorse both of them (if you’re willing to spend the extra dollars on Uber). It will be interesting to see how the industry of app-operated taxi service expands over the next couple years and how that growth influences street taxis.