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Ridesharing Get The Go Ahead!

Side•CarOn Thursday, September 19th the California Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 in favor of accepting the ridesharing technology as a legitimate business in California. While it has started in San Francisco due to the need of people to get from point A to point B and not have to wait an hour for a taxi it has grown into something more than that.

As a public disclaimer, I do drive for Side•Car so I am a little bit biased in this area I’ll admit, but I also have lots of people around town who also take taxi’s and even friends who are taxi drivers to fill me in on this so keep this in mind.

To make things clear from the beginning for those who have been trying to get a taxi and had trouble here are some of the reasons why.

  1. Taxi Companies are in the business of renting taxis: There is no incentive for a company to get you from point A to point B. The taxi companies make their money from renting the taxis or in short, they don’t make money from you taking a taxi, but from the drivers who rent the taxis.
  2. There is a combined total of roughly 1200 taxis available in San Francisco: This is split between all of the taxi companies. If you call for a cab to say, Yellow Cab which is the largest you have about 400 taxis available. This cuts the availability of taxis to riders significantly.
  3. It’s much easier to hail a taxi on the street than call for a pick up: Cab drivers are not employees of the cab companies, but independent contractors so they are under no obligation to pick up a call that is requested. There is no require of a cab driver to do anything other than pay for the taxi rental and return it with a full tank of gas at the end of the shift. Anything they do in between is up to them.

Do you see a problem here? Granted, ridesharing companies such as Side•Car, Lyft and Uber aren’t under a requirement to get you from point A to point B either, but there is a psychological mind set amongst the drivers that works in their favor. While there are a few who drive solely for income it is still not the same as a job. They can do it whenever they have free time and start and stop when they want so they can work it into their schedule.

Rideshare companies have been called elitist by cab companies saying that they won’t pick up low-income or elderly people who don’t own smartphones. I would disagree with this. I have had numerous people I’ve given rides to from 20-70 and all income levels in my car. I frequently drive through the Tenderloin or low-income areas that are underserved by taxis and notice quite a few people on the streets with smartphones. I frequently have picked up people at the local grocery stores who need a lift home with several bags of groceries and sometimes if I have the time I’ll help them unload and carry their bags in. I also have people call for me that need their parents picked up and dropped off in various locations around town so it is definitely a scalable technology. Smartphones are also being given away at this point in time and who in their right mind in this day and age doesn’t own a smartphone that calls for a ride? Last time I checked the majority of low-income people don’t take cabs, but wait for the bus using a state subsidized clipper card.

The biggest boon to riders is that if you are outside the downtown or Mission District you can now get a ride. The Sunset, Richmond, Ingelside and Oceanview areas are a no man’s land for getting a cab. I can’t even count the number of people in the Sunset or Richmond who’s said how great rideshare services are because they simply can’t get a cab in those areas.

Now regarding the safety of vehicles in participating in ridesharing there have been a few new requirements.

  1. Each company must keep a $1 million dollar insurance policy to cover each driver in excess of each driver’s insurance.
  2. Each company must maintain a strict drug and alcohol policy [as in no drugs or alcohol]
  3. A 19 point vehicle inspection is required of each vehicle someone driving for the companies must undergo.

There are other points, but these are the safety issues some people might be concerned with. All of these except the last have been met previously. Since most of the companies require each car to be from the year 2000 or later the chance of one not passing a 19 point inspection is rare. I know most oil change companies provide a 21 point inspection when you get your oil changed and if you change it regularly like I do then you know exactly what is wrong with your car so you can get it fixed.

The decision affects not just the San Francisco Bay Area, but the entire state of California opening the door to ridesharing in parts of the state that may not be considered large enough to warrant taxi service. Overall the price of rideshare works out cheaper than a taxi because a tip is expected on top of the fare regardless of whether or not the driver gave you a good ride or not [but we won’t talk bad about you if you do tip]. The taxi system and the way it works doesn’t support the needs of the people it was meant to serve. Ridesharing companies offer more drivers at more times in more places around the Bay Area so it is easier to get to the people and to get them where they need to go. I’ve personally used the service several times and found that I never had to wait longer than five minutes. When I’m driving and I take a call that’s ten minutes away I frequently wish I didn’t have to make the person wait as long, but usually the drivers are happy that I’m at their door within the time noted by the GPS locator used by the apps. Probably the biggest reason I like driving for a rideshare company is that it takes me all over the city to see  what’s happening now and not in tomorrow’s newsfeed.

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The Knight Driver: NSFW

Beware, the knight Driver...WARNING! This post is not safe to read at work if you have people who work with you who will lean over your shoulder in weird positions and angles to view the little type on your screen and then complain about sexual harassment or some other sort of thing.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for one of the local ridesharing companies and in a few of the posts I have made on Facebook, friends of mine have suggested that I write an article about it. In no way is this a reflection on any of the ridesharing companies that operate in SF. This is more just observations of people I’ve met along the way.

At first many people have said things like, I bet you have a lot of stories to tell. In reality, I don’t. Most of the people are nice normal people. Actually they’ve become a lot nicer and more normal since there have been a few changes to the way the system works so the oddballs I don’t see too much of anymore. There have been a few that I’ve given rides to and those were in the mostly under 30 range so they haven’t had the time to realize some of the things they’re saying. As an example…

JOB INTERVIEW GIRL

Nice girl. Kind of bubbly, but in a good way. We’re talking as I’m giving her a ride and she says to me…Is this dress too slutty for a job interview? OK, my mind is racing with responses. Like, depends, what position are you trying for at the Mitchell Brothers? or If you have to ask… No that wouldn’t be good to say because then she would ask what I asking. In the end I just asked her if her interview was with a law firm and she said no, Hot Topic. OK, you’re fine. That’s good because most law firms don’t like pink and purple striped hair in general.

THERAPY GIRL

Girl gets in the car while talking to someone on the phone and I can hear that the conversation is going bad. OK, bye… and the flood gates open. She starts crying. I suggest that she have some candy that I have in the back because candy makes everything better. She then starts to tell me why she’s crying.

Her: I told my boyfriend we were getting too serious and that we should start seeing other people.

Me: and let me guess. He’s seeing other people.

Her: YEEEESSSSSSS! <wailing tone>

Me: Well that’s what you wanted to do right?

Her: Yes, but I’M not seeing anyone else yet.

Me: Well generally when you say we should start seeing other people that usually means you’re already seeing other people.

Her: I know I fucked up didn’t I <still crying>

Me: So where are you going now?

Her: A bar. [name deleted so people don’t think it’s a spot for finding rebound girls]

Me: It’s Friday night, fix your make up and everything will be better tomorrow.

Her: I know it’s still early.

Me: He was probably an asshole anyway. [that’s still a line all girls tell their friends right?]

I would have sent her a bill for the therapy session, but all I had was her first name and I don’t want to get labeled as a creepy driver for contacting riders later unless they left something in my car.

I’M NOT A SLUT, YOU’RE A SLUT!

Oh boy. I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I didn’t expect this one. PLEASE people when you accept a ride from someone you have to remember whether it’s a rideshare company or a cabbie that there is someone there who is driving the car that can hear what you’re saying. Two girls get in the car and I knew right away this was going to be kind of different.

Girl 1: So remember that guy I hooked up with a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been seeing?

Girl 2: You mean the one you said had a small penis?

Girl 1: Yeah, I call him “little Richard”.

Girl 2: You do not!

Girl 1: I do

Girl 2: So how is he? How are things going?

Girl 1: Alright, but he’s kind of sleazy.

Girl 2: How so?

Girl 1: He like pulls it out of my ass and tries to put it in my mouth.

Girl 2: <silence>

Me: <Dare I ask if it was the first date?>

That pretty much ended the entire awkward conversation until I dropped them off and they ran away from the car.

HIPSTER DOUCHEBAGS

This was a first for me. I’ve talked about hipsters, heard other people talk about them, but I had never met one or more that were so stereotypical.

Hipster 1: The Yeah yeah yeahs were awesome!

Hipster 2: True, but I was there for The National.

Hipster 1: It’s so weird that we just met at Outside Lands and we both live a block away from each other in the Mission.

Hipster 2: Yeah I know. I’m going to get a burrito when we get dropped off.

Hipster 1: El Farolito rocks!

Hipster 2: Quesadilla Suiza DUDE!

Hipster 1: So what do you do?

Hipster 2: Well a just moved out here a couple of months ago and got a job with a tech company and I’m the ambassador of their product line so they send me to London to get their social media voice more prominent.

Hipster 1: No way! I do the same thing for my company, but they send me to South America to do the same thing. I usually stay over an extra week so I can more fully experience their culture, but I usually spend it drinking on the beach.

Me: ????

If I am lying, I’m dying. I did not make that up. The only thing missing from that conversation was PBR and American Spirit cigarettes. Now I understand much better the locals who complain about the hipsters ruining their taquerias. On the plus side I got a 50% tip.

Farting Passengers

Look, I understand it’s a natural body function and all that, but if you’re only going to be in my car for around 15 minutes don’t you think you could at least hold it until you got out? Or maybe, oh, I don’t know. Roll down the windows afterwards? This is something that I found seemed to happen with the under 30 crowd which I’ve been getting less and less of now that we’re getting closer to the end of summer here. The biggest problem for me is that I have to air out the car before the next person gets in because you don’t want people complaining that your car stinks when they rode in it. Luckily I carry a can of ozium just in case this happens and I pull over and spray the car and close it up for a couple of minutes before I start driving again. Since people used it in the 70’s to get the smell of pot smoke out of the air I figured it would be a good choice and it works really well against, ahem, offensive odors. Luckily it’s something that I haven’t had a problem with in the past couple of weeks.

That’s a pretty good sample of some of the people I’ve given rides to, but as I said most are pretty normal people. I’ve got four people who are regulars who I feel like they’re my best buddies since they get in and we carry on where we left off a few days before. Those people I’ve given cards to so they can read my blog. The people I’ve written about above, I don’t want to give cards to. I don’t mean any ill will towards them, but they really need to be careful about what they’re telling people when they get into the car with a stranger…