Lyft and Uber are bigger than ever. What does that mean for us? How do you choose what to use?
A lot of my friends in Los Angeles are selling their cars and opting for alternative forms of transportation including ride sharing apps, the new Metro Line, and other forms of public transit. When you total up a year’s worth of monthly payments, car insurance, gas, parking permits and fees (not including unexpected repairs and regular maintenance), the average Californian is dishing out an upwards of $4,000 a year on personal automobile transportation. That’s a lot of money to keep your driver freedom (and for some it is entirely worth it). Robert Hampshire, a professor at UMTRI and lead author of a new study regarding increase in rideshare use and decrease in personal vehicle use from stated “Our findings show that these ride-sourcing companies do change behaviors.”
Currently there are about 15 major Rideshare apps available in the City of Angels. Uber currently holds 80% of the ride-sharing market while Lyft holds about 10%- the other 10% are made up of the smaller start up ride-sharing apps like Gett, Sidecar, & Flywheel. So how do you choose? I did the research, and even got Lyft & Uber driver approved to see the difference and here is what I found out…
Registering with Uber…
I went to register with Uber and have my vehicle inspected at a parking lot in Burbank. It seemed that every Taxi driver and I had the same idea. We stood in lines, showed our identification & insurance, filled out a W-9, and then had our cars inspected in about 15 minutes. I was in and out in about an hour with minimal questioning after presenting the concrete paperwork demonstrating I had no criminal record and I possessed valid license, registration, and insurance. The people were nice and informative if I asked questions, but it was strictly business- in and out.
Registering with Lyft…
I registered with Lyft and it created an appointment with a driver mentor as the next step in the approval process (as of July 31 this program is terminated, however I enjoyed it and found it very helpful). The Mentor is an experienced driver who has positive passenger feedback and high ratings. They conduct a vehicle inspection, take pictures of you, your car, and license plates for your profile, and then go on a 15 minute test drive with you. The experience was easy, very personal, and efficient. Mentors get $35 for each mentor session, which is good initiative and a way for Lyft to get real life feedback about the new potential driver and their attitude, personal interaction skills, and how they would handle various scenarios. It took about an hour to complete, and a few weeks later I was notified regarding my approval to drive for Lyft.
I conducted a few rides on each app and found the clientele to be very different. When I would drive Lyft, it was usually as if I was giving a ride to a friend or colleague. We would chat, it was casual, and I never felt awkward about having someone sit in the back seat, in fact a lot of times they would sit in the front seat with me and we would talk the entire trip. With Uber, the clientele was generally white collar & on the way to work or the airport. They sat in the back and were fine with having minimal interactions. Please keep in mind I am more of a seasoned passenger than a driver for both apps so my experience is limited as a driver. As a passenger, I find Lyft drivers are more outgoing and accommodating, which verifies their message of community. Uber is a pick-up and go service, akin to a private black car or limo service- and let’s face it, you are not usually chit chatting with a limo driver.
I have had more pleasant experiences with Lyft, and that is mainly because of my demographic, as a 27 year old female. After the numerous PR and legal scandals that have surfaced regarding UBER driver malpractice and crime, I err on the side of caution and comfort and continually find myself only clicking the little pink logo on my phone. The recent resignation of Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick further affirms the corporations instability stemming from inner workplace culture that reportedly includes numerous accounts of sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as reports of aggressively pushing the envelope when dealing with law enforcement. On the other end of the spectrum, Lyft’s VP of ‘People’, Ron Storn states, “We try at Lyft to live by the brand—we treat people better. That is in our external community with drivers and passengers, but also internally in how we support and develop our team members.” Like I said, it is as if you are getting a ride from a friend rather than ordering a taxi, which some passengers would categorize as unprofessional, but most are willing to sacrifice traditional service industry driver-passenger behavior, for comfort and safety.
There is no doubt that part of the difference in type and quality of service results from the rate of growth each corporation has seen since their launch. Uber launched publicly in 2011 with less than 200 employees and now boasts 14,000 global corporate employees, with drivers in more than 81 countries. Uber is valued at $70 billion dollars. In comparison Lyft launched in 2012 and currently has 1,400 corporate employees and drivers in over 300 US cities. Lyft is valued at $7.5 billion. Lyft works on a smaller proportional scale and therefor has more control over its quality and retention of their happy employees and whether corporate or in the field, which resonates with the clients.
In July, Uber announced it’s ‘180 Days of Change’ campaign, aimed at repairing its relationship with drivers, which leaders at the company say is “broken.” One of the first initiatives in instigating an in-app messaging system which protects passenger’s personal phone number from being accessed by the driver, hopefully making a passenger feel safer. On the Lyft side, they are not concerned with re-building their reputation, but rather expanding their on trend image formed by the young clientele by introducing campaigns like “Taco Mode“, that partner with Taco Bell, offering meal-deal incentives for Lyft passengers. The playful promotion aligns with their overall motto of how they treat their customers and employees. A recent survey reveals Lyft drivers are happier than Uber drivers overall, regardless of the difference in pay. Lyft pays drivers slightly more and has a rider minimum, Uber has no rider minimum, meaning drivers can get stuck making a few cents per passenger.
As both companies grow rapidly, they are both steadfast in assuring the public about their image and company ethics as the race continues toward the investment in autonomous driving vehicles. Lyft’s president John Zimmer agrees that car ownership in major cities will be extinct by 2025 — as long as autonomous vehicles emerge as a dominant force as most tech companies expect. “Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” Zimmer wrote last year. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city-dwellers will stop using a personal car altogether.”
So when you go to turn in your keys as ridesharing booms, consider your driver, the company that employs them, and the most important for me personally, driver safety. Uber might be paving the road for autonomous vehicles, with Lyft not far behind, but they are still buried in millions of dollars of lawsuits and PR scandal which should hint at overall company stability and reliability.
What do you choose?