By Altif Brown
Growing up, our parents (at least the good ones) told us to never get in cars with strangers, and to not talk to strangers on the internet. Now, we literally use our phones to summon strangers from the internet (oftentimes to our homes or workplace) so we can get in their cars.
This is ridesharing.
Now, I am not going to go explain any more in-depth about what ridesharing services are. Because if you do not already know about them or cannot glean from the word “ridesharing” what the service is, then please close this article, destroy your phone and computer, and enroll in ENG 1 at your local junior college/ farm academy.
When Uber and other ridesharing services launched (~2010) they were the disruptors of the taxi industry. They were able to get you a ride quicker and cheaper than any established service. This was (and still is) true in various cities and weird times of day, and people rave about them.
I mean, Uber and Lyft are worth billions and it’s very likely that their IPO will dramatically affect the Bay Area housing crisis (like it could get any worse). However, this does not mean that the Taxi has died or that it is no longer relevant.
Rather, this means that people are attached to shiny new things and want to feel like they are being somewhat rebellious – which is exactly what attaching yourself to a disruptor does. This is why 7 years later, Uber and Lyft (RIP Sidecar) have become the dominant forces in the ridesharing industry and are the “new normal”.
But beyond the social conditioning of requiring a stranger to drive you places ( so you can feel bourgeois), there are stranger things. There may actually be a reason why Taxis are “low key lit fam”, and that once the lust fades around Uber and Lyft, you’ll realize that they are basically two sides of a counterfeit coin. And speaking of money….
The image above was from New Years Eve 2015. Remember? It was that time that UBER had the whole country messed up. When I opened the app, I actually almost had a heart attack.
It was that moment when I was confronted with the choice to either:
a) pay the surge and have a $10 trip (roughly 3 miles) cost $100+ but make it to the club before the clock turned 12.
b) Walk my drunken self, down the street for about 20-30 minutes and miss ushering in the New Year with my friends.
I begin to walk and then remember that taxicabs are totally a thing and so I raise my arm up and a yellow SUV swerved over three lanes and cut off a bus to pick me up.
Me…a 6’2, 210lb black man, at night. I see, you driver.
I get in and ask him what’s the upcharge.”Nothing” he replied in a thick accent. Clearly he didn’t understand the question. “Sir, what is the increase in price due to it being New Years Eve”. Then he looked at me like, “clearly this dude didn’t understand my answer”.
“We do not raise our prices at different times of the day” he said slowly. Obviously I felt dumb, and maybe even a little racist.
He began to explain about how the pricing is fixed, 24 hours, 365, for all the taxis in the city of San Francisco. He went on to explain that Taxi drivers are independent contractors and there are so many different companies that they cannot actually project supply, thus the pricing is constant.
In all honesty, sometimes Uber will be more expensive than ordering a limousine (the fare estimate button is your best friend). To be fair, if you are in a city where uberPOOL and Lyft Line are available, then these are options are cheaper than taxis. However, you will arrive at your destination 20-30 minutes later than had you chosen a regular UBER, whose price is on par with the local taxi.
Uber and Lyft are deemed to be more convenient because you can whip out your phone and summon a stranger to come pick you up. But beyond that, it is very limiting with regards to options.
Taxi apps like Flywheel and YoTaxi have very similar interfaces as Uber and Lyft and are equally as seamless to request.
…Well, YoTaxi kind of sucks, but it is improving and coming off of a rebrand.
However, they both go a step further and allow you to also request by phone, and you can hail a cab the old fashioned way or wait for the driver that’s been assigned to you to arrive. You can pay by cash, card, or have an automatic payment option within the app like Uber/Lyft.
Although I love getting picked up by an old lady and hearing her war stories, if i’m using a ridesharing service it is probably because I was too hungover to effectively plan my way around the city using public transit and I can’t even.
Because of these very real reasons:
1) Don’t talk to me, don’t fist bump me, and don’t offer me stale Fritos. I’m going to get in, look whitfully out of the window until we arrive, and then bounce out
2) Get me there ASAP
A taxi will drive more urgently than you even want to arrive.
True Story: I’m in an uber and the driver stops at a green light. I ask, ‘ummm, why’d you stop’. He replied with ‘ the light’s about to be yellow soon’.
I mean, I guess he isn’t wrong, but again, I need to be there A$AP Rocky and Uber/Lyft drivers drive as if we are following a hearst. And then have the nerve to charge surge by the distance AND time.
Which brings me to my last point: Taxi drivers are exactly that, they are professional DRIVERS. They have ridiculous licensing and insurances and take their job very seriously. Because they are commercial vehicles, they can break a wide array of traffic laws that regular car cannot, whether it be illegal u-turns, double parking, etc. They can travel to airports and drive in the Taxi/Bus lanes that 70 year-old Mabel’s Oldsmobile cannot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have probably spent the same amount of money on ridesharing services in the last 4 years as I spent on alcohol during 4 years of college – which is hella. But that doesn’t change the fact that these services are, in actuality, subprime to the granddaddy in the room.
Not to mention that Taxis are 2-3 steps higher on the chauffeured lifestyle ladder than Ubers and Lyfts (Taxis are 2 rungs below Limousines).
Especially when you are in Silicon Valley and roll up to a place in a taxi. People look at you like you just stepped out of rebellious spaceship that was hovering above the fray of the basic lifestyle of tech bros.
So basically, you will actually look like a boss.
As I had stated previously (if you were paying attention), Uber and Lyft are two sides of a counterfeit coin. And like a counterfeit coin, they will be accepted at face value virtually anywhere, because no one really cares that much.
But with a harder gaze, people realize their lack of authenticity (Austin 2016). To be honest, I definitely suggest using ridesharing services if you need a ride in exactly 1 minute. But if you can sacrifice a little bit of time on the front end to gain speed, predictability in pricing, with comparable convenience on the back end, then the Taxi is where it’s at.
And if you are emotionally invested and gung-ho about ridesharing, that’s great. Ask my girl Mabel where the turn up at.
Altif Brown– Brogrammer
Follow Altif on Twitter: @altifbrown