In Los Angeles Without A Car? Don’t Despair… !
Los Angeles is a real drag without a car… And even with a car, it can be a nightmare! Constant traffic, impossible parking and insane drivers combine to make getting around the city a real challenge. When I visit this palm tree-festooned metropolis, hiring a car is the last thing on my mind, and I usually end up relying on friends to make my way around the city.
That all changed on this trip, though. I will never have to rely on a friend again, because I discovered Lyft!
It all started when Elvina, the owner of our AirBnB digs, suggested we use one of her drivers to get a pick-up from the airport. Clocking in at only $40, it seemed like a better solution than dealing with some gruff taxi driver.
The guy who picked us up, Stephen, told us that, in addition to driving for Elvina, he also drove for a variety of other ride-sharing programs, including Lyft and SideCar. He was driving a Nissan Leaf (100% electric!) and spoke so highly of the whole system that I was completely intrigued. He was so nice and cool and not-awkward that I downloaded both the Lyft and SideCar apps to my phone immediately.
The next morning, Kat and I used Lyft to go to the Beverly Center… And back again!
Lyft is so easy to use: you open the app on your phone, it pinpoints you on a map, and tells you how far away the closest driver is. Once you request a “lyft”, it will show you a picture of the driver and the car, as well as track where they are on a map. They arrive, you get in, and you go!
Over the course of a week, we met so many new people through Lyft and had so many interesting conversations! We got one of our favourite drivers, Justin, at least four times, and then saw him in Urban Outfitters (what a stalker!). (Bonus: I just listened to his podcast and it is SO FUNNY.) Erin took us to the 99c Only store, waited for us in the parking lot, and then took photos of us with our gigantic, newly-inflated B balloons. (She also laughed when I told her about the Cuchini, which gives her points in my book!)
Every single driver we had was so friendly and easygoing. They all have unopened bottles of water and gum for passengers, as well as chargers for your Android or iPhone. Oh, and did I mention that every Lyft car is adorned with a big pink fuzzy moustache?!
The best part is that the whole system is donation-based, and it all goes through your phone, so there’s no awkward fumbling with your wallet or frantic tip-calculation. So when you arrive at your destination, you smile, say thank you, and exit the vehicle with grace. Then the app on your phone will prompt you to make a donation. The donation is suggested by the driver, and you can either increase or decrease it. Then you rate the driver out of 5 stars, and hit submit. The money is instantly taken off your credit card.
It couldn’t be easier than that!
We used Lyft for the duration of the trip, and used a taxi service once — and even then, only because Lyft doesn’t open until 9am. Our experience with the taxi was so unfriendly and felt so archaic that it reinforced our desire to keep using ride-sharing services! Ride(share) or die!
The concept of getting in a car with a “stranger” is a little intimidating at first, but all the Lyft drivers get extremely thorough background checks, and we never had a bad experience. Everyone we interacted with left your average taxi driver in the dust!
The whole thing is so genius, I love it. I actually can’t wait to go back to California to use it again! Lyft doesn’t exist in NYC yet, but SideCar does, as well as UBERx. You should definitely check them out. I think they’re ushering in a new age, and I am so excited about where the sharing economy might take us next!
The bad news is that these services have had a lot of clampdowns, all in the name of “safety” and regulation. What a load of hogwash! I believe this is just about the governing bodies wanting to get a big greedy slice of the action. I feel 100% more safe in a car whose driver I can rate, than with some anonymous maniac!
As Nick Allen from SideCar said,
We’re spent more than half a million dollars and countless hours defending our position to regulators and it’s a distraction. Big transportation problems face our nation. Rideshare is a great solution. SideCar has the potential to transform and offer a fundamentally different model for addressing critical environmental, economic and quality of life issues across our nation. We believe the right to share resources is an important principal for the entire sharing economy so we’re pushing on. We’re going to defend the right to share resources to regulators, in court, to SFO and anyone else who stands in the path of innovation.
I drove back to the airport with Stephen yesterday morning, and he was so happy when I told him we’d been using Lyft all week. Lyft’s tagline is “Your friend with a car”, and it really feels like that! Lyft is all about the community, and it makes you realise how much we’ve bought into that concept of “stranger danger”. Most people are just like us. Most people are friendly, helpful and cool. Why not utilise that?
I love ride-sharing. I support it. I think there should be more of it. You should definitely give it a shot!