The city of Los Angeles is duking it out with startup rideshare apps Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, which as you know are embroiled in a tit-for-tat where the city’s Transportation Department has ordered cease-and-desist orders for all operations or face prosecution, while the app companies tout their previous agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission to operate temporarily state-wide.
As the battle continues, I have noticed that I am only seeing more and more Uber cars popping up on the apps, and also I was able to hail my first Lyft ride this 4th of July.
My initial experience trying to sign up for Lyft a while back was lukewarm to say the least. The app would not accept my credit card number, and when I called the company I was kind of off-put by the customer service agent basically telling me to just “wait it out” and “Yeah, we’ve been having this problem lately and we’re working on it.”
Eventually, I was able to get signed up and start a profile, but I never was really able to try out Lyft because as of now they’re only operating on the west side of Los Angeles near Santa Monica, whereas I live further south. Every time I checked for an available car in my area there was never one to be seen. Until this past July 4.
While leaving a friend’s house, I found myself in need of a quick ride back to my apartment. When I checked for Uber, there were surprisingly no cars to be had — as if they were all busy. So I tried Lyft and saw that there was one car in my area. I tapped the screen to request the car, and the driver called me within 10 minutes to say he was outside.
I look outside and see a beige mid-90’s Toyota Corolla with the trademark Lyft Pink Mustached on the grill. Nothing fancy about it, but it was sure quick and easy.
I get in the front seat and my friend gets in the back. The driver, Avrom, looked like a nice kid just out of college. He prompted me with Lyft’s customary fist-bump, offered us water and candy that he had available in the back (red vines and lollipops) and away we went.
He told me that it was lucky for me to be able to catch the ride in this part of town, and that he was making his way up to the Westside from Long Beach when I happened to catch him. The ride was similar to how Lyft bills itself, which is that of a friend picking you up and giving you a ride.
When we exited, Avrom drove off and the app on my phone opened up to say, “Avrom just gave you a ride, what would you like to donate — $5?” And that’s how Lyft operates, they call everything a donation. And depending on how much you “donate” determines the rating that the driver will give you.
These apps are leaning heavily on the review aspect. I know I’ve had Uber drivers tell me they’ve passed up on ride requests from customers who have a low rating. And with Lyft it’s the same. If you have a low rating, good luck catching a ride.
So I bumped my driver up to a $10 donation, which is about the same as it would be for a cab ride of the same distance, but I have to say I enjoyed the ride better than a local cab. I’m in the process now of trying to contact the CPUC, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the three rideshare apps under scrutiny, and also find out the major cab players in Los Angeles, to see if I can write a more in-depth article as to what’s going on with all this contention.
For now, I’ll just say that it was a good experience. I like how easy it is to hail, and I like the demeanor of the drivers compared to cabs. I like the fact that I don’t always have to have cash on me to be able to take a ride. And it seems as if I’m learning about new rideshare apps all the time.
How are the rideshare apps doing in your part of town? Do you view them as competitors?
— Tim Crowley, LCT senior editor
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