When I moved to San Francisco three and a half years ago, I quickly learned to not rely on taxis. Not only were they expensive for a recent college grad on a budget, but it was frustrating to receive an automated phone call telling me the taxi had arrived, only to go outside 30 seconds later to find out it had often left. The drivers seemed to have no patience; soon, neither did I. I tried to avoid the taxi scene as much as possible and instead relied on the local bus system.
At the time, taxis and the bus were my best options for getting around the city. I initially did not own a smart phone when I moved to SF, but several months later I caved and bought my first one. In terms of transportation, possessing a smart phone certainly helped. I would often track buses real-time or check when the next Bart train was coming. However, soon my mobile device would be changing the way I commuted around the city.
In 2012, I started seeing pink mustaches on cars. I’m no stranger to bizarre trends in SF and laughed it off at first, thinking people were just decorating their cars for the fun of it. Soon I found out that the mustaches symbolized Lyft, an on-demand ride sharing app. I downloaded the app and quickly fell in love with its simplicity, intuitiveness, and community-building focus, not to mention competitive rates.
Once you download the Lyft app, you enter your credit card information, connect to your Facebook account, and… voilà! The app has GPS, so whenever you need a ride, all you have to do is press “Request Lyft” and you’ll be shown your driver’s name and photo, the car he or she is driving, and exactly where he/she is in relation to your pick-up destination. Unpleasant driver or experience? You’re able to make your voice heard by rating your driver on a scale of 1-5 stars, and drivers also rate you as a passenger. Drivers must maintain a 4.7 star rating to continue to drive.
Lyft, along with similar ridesharing apps such as Sidecar and Uber, eliminates the concern over a cab driver’s whereabouts, helps to build a community comprised of those who use the app, and is changing an industry critical to city dwellers through mobile alone. It has impacted cab drivers so significantly that cab companies around the nation are raising money to fight Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber. While the cab industry clearly finds ridesharing apps unsettling, it has positively impacted both drivers and passengers.
John Schaaf, of San Francisco, CA, has been a Lyft driver for the past month. “I try to create a mellow, fun and engaging experience for my customers, keeping the conversation on them but trying to be sensitive to those who don’t feel like talking,” John says. “I’d say 98% of passengers have been very pleasant. They find Lyft to be safe, convenient, and preferable to cabs.”
Regardless of your stance on ridesharing apps, it’s undeniable that many people throughout the U.S. have become reliant on their convenience and efficiency. In the coming years, it should be very interesting to see how mobile app developers continue to disrupt and transform the traditional ways that people commute in big cities.