When I moved to San Francisco back in 2005, I did it sans car. If you can believe it, I’ve been personal vehicle-free ever since, favoring our fair city’s delightful mass transit system and traditional city cabs in order to make my way around.
I’d walk more, but I wear heels, so that’s out.
For four long years, Muni and SF cabs and I coexisted in a relationship fraught with tension. Neither one of them thought it necessary to show up on time (or at all), even though I continued to express my boundaries: “Adhere to your schedule, arrive when I call you and get me places safely.” Something had to give.
In order to judge each San Francisco taxi disruption service effectively, I took the same trip on three different occasions taking into account the mobile experience, drivers and rates. Below are my findings.
I was initially nervous about trying Lyft. Considering it was someone’s personal car, driven by that particular someone, I was tentative. To counter my anxiety, I chatted Roger’s (4.9 stars, drives a white Prius) ear off the entirety of our journey. Shocking, I know.
The in-app experience is as seamless as the in-car experience, with the exception of fewer available drivers overall than exist with other services. Like other car services before it, Lyft just requires your location and provides an estimate on when your driver will reach you. The app doesn’t automatically adjust to my current location which is slightly annoying, but easy enough to deal with.
Roger was a good driver, got me to my appointment safely and good-naturedly answered my incessant questioning about the service. (We may or may not have had a philosophical conversation about the lyrics of “Call Me Maybe” which came on the radio during the ride.) The best part, aside from the traditional end-of-ride Lyft fist bump, was the fact that the ride cost $11, plus tip to total $15. No actual money was exchanged as the app keeps my credit card on file, prompting me to add a “donation” to the final bill — that’s Lyft’s lingo for the tip.
Fears for my safety allayed, I’ll be trying Lyft again. Plus the cars all have big, pink, fuzzy moustaches on them. Really!
If the concept of Lyft concerned me, then SideCar was especially challenging. SideCar’s drivers are ordinary people just cruising around the city on the off-chance that you need a ride. Meaning they aren’t professional drivers which is why it made me a tad concerned to try the service.
Another difference with this service is that the ride payment is “voluntary”. SideCar asks that you enter your destination and if a driver is headed your direction, they swing by and pick you up. The app shows you an estimate of how much other riders have paid for a similar trip, and you can pay that much or less depending on your experience. Mine was $16.
My driver was Todd (five stars) who zips around San Francisco in a Mercedes. He lives in Palo Alto, coaches middle school volleyball and in his spare time is a full-time SideCar driver. The app is very… orange. It doesn’t feel as polished as Lyft but it gets the job done. Like these other services, it keeps my credit card on file and that’s how the payment is made once the ride is over. Todd was a good driver and excellent conversationalist but he took the scenic route to get to my appointment which took longer and made me late. I chalked this up to him being a civilian rather than pro driver.
One positive is that there are a lot of drivers available with SideCar, so wait times are pretty minimal, at least downtown.
Bottom line: due to the fact that SideCar drivers aren’t actually professional, I doubt that I’ll use it again.
As an Uber user since September 2010, I’m a devotee who can’t say enough good things about the service. Full disclosure: I take 4-5 traditional Uber cabs a week. Pretty sure I have a problem. But anyway… UberX was a new experience for me.
UberX is the Uber team’s answer to the low-cost ride share services that cropped up after the advent of Uber. The cars are roughly 35% cheaper than the traditional town cars. Currently in beta mode, you can request an invite and try out the service if approved. Like Lyft, there aren’t a lot of UberX drivers available. More often than not I get this notice when trying to hail the service.
For those unfamiliar with Uber, the in-app experience is uncomplicated, only asking for your location, showing available cars in the area and estimating the amount of time it will take to reach you. Lyft’s app seems to mimic this in its design. What’s that they say? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
My driver was Vinh (five stars), a very nice young man who was thrilled to be driving for Uber. He’s been very busy since the service launched and thinks Uber clients are the best. He drove a silver sedan and got me to my destination safely, efficiently and happily. The ride was $16.
Honestly, I prefer Uber to any of these other car services, but since my initial Lyft ride I’ve used that service several times, plus my typical traditional Uber. I’ll leave SideCar and UberX to more adventurous souls. But try them! I’m curious to know your experience.