If you have visited San Francisco in the last year chances are you have seen a car with a fluffy pink mustache attached to the front. This is not some new hipster fashion, it’s a ride-share taxi service. Lyft uses your smart phone to request a ride and pay with credit card on file, no cash!
What happened to taking a taxi? A recent article in the San Francisco Examiner explains the taxi shortage and measure the city is taking to remedy it. Basically, there aren’t enough licensed cabs in San Francisco to meet demand, not by a long shot.
I live in one of the outer districts while technically ‘in the city’ it is hit or miss if the cab company I call will pick me up and when. Trying to get back to my home is a different problem; drivers have insisted on cash payment, complained to me about ‘driving all the way out there’ and I actually had a driver tell me “no” and drive off, seriously.
In 2012 several company were started to solve SF taxi problems, Uber, Sidecar and Lyft. Uber App searches all available licensed cab and town car companies and finds you the closest ride regardless of company. While Sidecar and Lyft seek individuals to drive their own cars a few hours a week. Pick up, navigation and payment all go through the app. I am going to focus on the only ride service I use regularly, Lyft — affectionately known as the Pink Mustache Ride.
Is it legal?
Yes! As Lyft grew cabbies got upset and there were question of legality; Lyft was slapped with a$20,000 fine in 2012. In February 2013 the citywide ban on ride shares was lifted; Lyft didn’t have to pay the fine and is now able to operate legally. Though ride share companies are NOT authorized to pick up or drop off at SFO.
This is the #1 reason people site for NOT using Lyft. Blogs site lack of insurance for a reason why Lyft is bad and why you should only ride in reputable taxi companies. I am updating this blog after talking to several drivers who shared that in addition to their personal vehicle and passenger insurance Lyft also covers drivers with a multimillion-dollar umbrella policy, giving riders and drivers piece of mind.
How does Lyft work?
Start with downloading the Lyft app and enter your credit card information for payment. Open app and drop a pin on your location (get a close as possible drivers stop on-the-dot) you will be able to see on the map where drivers are and your estimated wait time. Then click “request a lyft”. The app will tell you who your driver will be including a picture and an image of the car they are driving and how many minutes until they arrive.
When you get into the lyft you must fist-bump the driver. I didn’t know why so I asked a driver and the fist-bump is part of pick up protocol; to make you feel more like you are sharing a ride with a friends and not a creepy cabby. Enjoy your ride, talk to your driver or don’t, it’s cool.
At the end of your ride Lyft sends you a text message with a link to your bill. You approve the amount which includes tip, or you can add additional tip, and give your driver a star rating out of 5.
It pays to be nice, they are rating you as a passenger too. So if you decide to be a jerk, vomit in the back seat, or don’t pay your driver and you may not get picked up again.
Who are the drivers?
Drivers work part time, for supplemental income, most drivers work weekends and evening, precisely the time when cabs are most busy. Lyft does background checks, and interviews drivers in person. They are looking for nice, normal, personable people with new-ish clean cars; maybe you have seen an add on Facebook. There appear to be requirements for the quality of vehicles and I have been picked up in Lexus, Audi, VW and just twice in basic domestic vehicles, typically the cars are nicer than taxis. The drivers are always nicer, friendlier and more “normal” then any cabby I have ever rode with.
I found this great interview with Disco Lyft Driver, while I have seen this tricked out ride around the city I have yet to catch a disco ride.
Lyft ride-share apps make calling a cab seem so 20th century.
Next time you find yourself in The City By The Bay trying to get from The Marina to The Mission TRY THIS…. use your smart phone and get a Lyft.