I rode in a cab last night- a minivan- and I was terrified. This post is overdue. There are times where we need to use a car to get around, though it’s rare… but sometimes kids are sleeping, or it’s sleeting, or really cold, or you forgot you’re supposed to be at the dentist’s office in 15 minutes, and you gotta go.
I promised I’d talk a bit more about Lyft awhile ago. We strap our kids in using the Ride Safer Travel Vest and the Bubble Bum booster seat, so they are 100% street legal, which is important. These aren’t the options I’d choose if we were a more regular car-riding family, but they are AWESOME for occasional trips by car combined with walking/biking/transit.
Lyft drivers are paid, but riders don’t pay a fee- they give a suggested donation (or more, or less) so it manages to get around the whole medallion thing. Taxis are run by only a few large companies in Chicago because the medallions, or licenses, are limited. The last few conversations and Google searches I did when curious about this a few months ago indicated the average going price of one in our city is
$80,000 over $300,000 (OMG!) Independent cab drivers usually rent a car from a larger company since the expense is so great.
With Lyft, people drive their own cars. Yes, this seems like a major loophole. I know cab drivers don’t like it- here they are forced to shell out for renting the car, and Lyft drivers are just pocketing “donations.” I see the issue. But I can’t help but feel the system needed to evolve. I know NOTHING about the folks who manage the service and how the money flows through the app, but I do know I prefer ‘Lyfting.’
Experience reserving/calling a cab: I live about a half mile from a pretty reliable pickup point near the train station, and might get lucky on occasion and hail a cab on the street near my house. I’ve tried Uber, and almost always get a message that there are no cars available, unless I’m getting a town car. And I don’t like their prices. I’ve had several occasions where I called for a cab at the last minute, and they never showed up. I’d call the dispatch again to check on their location, and they’d say they were still trying to get one to me. This makes me nuts.
Lyft has an app where you can see the location of the drivers nearby, their picture, and rating. You reserve your ride then and get their number. You can watch them on a friendly little map. I have mixed feelings about the phone in the car thing, but I have twice called a driver on the way to tell them about a “secret shortcut” that was helpful in picking me up… also, I’ve so far always been able to get a ride. I haven’t done rush hour, though.
We hailed a minivan last night from Ogilvie to get a few blocks home in the rain at rush hour. Our driver spun his bald tires at every green light, made sudden stops that threw us forward (in our seatbelts,) cut off other drivers, and nearly hit several pedestrians. All while talking on his cellphone. Then he acted annoyed when we asked to use a debit card to pay. It was just Mr. M and I, thank goodness.
Lyft drivers feel like people you catch a ride with. I’ve gone this route with and without the kids, and it’s consistently good. There’s usually a fair amount of conversation, which I always enjoy. I like hearing what people do otherwise- I’ve met several guys in film/animation, wait staff, teachers, after-school program organizers… Everyone has been super polite. They drive like normal, cautious people. They reassure me that it’s fine to take my time to get the kids buckled into their respective boosters/vests. It feels friendly and relaxed.
Lyft is cheaper. In my experience, it costs about $5 less even with suggested tip included than I’d pay by cab. A trip to the zoo sets us back $14 something in a taxi pre-tip, and is $12 with Lyft. The app saves your payment information, just like Uber, and you get a text and a notification after you’ve been dropped off. You can tip more or less depending on your experience, and you rate your driver. They’ll also rate you- though I’m afraid you don’t get to see it (so be nice!) I LOVE this since for us using a car means we’re in a hurry for something and I’ve been able to settle the tab right after checking in for a Dr’s appointment.
Update: Drafted this post over a week ago on my flight to Boston. Used Lyft multiple times there over the weekend. Used again today. Still awesome, and my little guy is now obsessed with mustaches… I had to go rescue husband’s bike in the freezing rain tonight at 9:30, as I was supposed to pick it up on my way home from a thing and ran out of phone battery so had to stop at home to ask where the bike was- for the first time ever, got the dreaded “all drivers are busy” message. On the upside, got a very friendly and cautious cabbie, so there you go.