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Posts Tagged 'taxi'

A Requiem For Sidecar

Sidecar R.I.P.Today when people talk about ridesharing they don’t even use that word. They say, Uber or Lyft. Those are the big two everyone knows about, but there was a third company. This company started ridesharing where people who had a car could give other people a ride and make money in the process. That company was Sidecar.

Unfortunately, like many technology based companies, Sidecar will be ending its run tomorrow, December 31st, 2015. This saddens me in many ways because it was the first company I drove for and the people there really used to reach out to the drivers. Some of us, like myself were made Captains because of our interest in the company. We were able to give feedback, help train new drivers and host meet ups to answer questions other drivers had. This was something that Uber and Lyft didn’t do. There was very little wall between the drivers and the people who worked at Sidecar. Chances were if you drove for Sidecar you had met someone who worked there.

Sidecar was an innovative company in that it let the riders choose the drivers which for someone like me was great. I was a favorite among many of the riders and for a long time I rarely had much downtime. Then the fare wars started and Uber and Lyft started to drop prices to ridiculous levels. It used to be that if Uber fares were above 1.4x in surge it was cheaper to take a cab. Now if the fare exceeds 2.0x in surge it’s cheaper to take a cab.

The riders started to flock to Uber and Lyft and Sidecar unfortunately didn’t have the market penetration or money to advertise like the others and the riders fell off. They then moved over to incorporating deliveries which was great for drivers for a while, but then other delivery companies came in and the fare wars began again.

Ultimately, drivers needed to make a realistic amount of money to make it worth it to drive for any company and the drivers started to go where the money was. Drivers for Sidecar could set their own prices which in the end caused Sidecar to be more pricey than Uber or Lyft. This left Sidecar with only a handful of die-hard users that remained. I had made many friends and a few even had my phone number and would text me when they needed a ride, but because they were more expensive, even though the riders had more options, price beat out the service provided.

Now that will be gone and I’m sad because I probably won’t see a lot of those people anymore. I won’t have the fun chats or know ahead of time that the person I’m picking up won’t be so drunk that they’re going to pass out in my car or worse. I feel a loss that what could have been a great company from San Francisco has come to an end. Hopefully something will come out of this, but I suspect that 2016 will have many changes to the rideshare industry and gig economy so expect to see some changes here in the near future.

Taxi’s vs. TNC’s

Hey Taxi!I’ve been reading a lot lately of the war between taxi drivers and those who drive for TNC’s [that’s the new name for ride sharing companies such as Sidecar, Uber & Lyft]. Actually, it’s not so much a war between the two as it is taxi drivers voicing their anger to just about anyone in the media who will listen. This is were is starts to get interesting.

The reality of the situation is that the cabbies should be looking at the system they’re operating in and quite a few have started. Approximately one third of all taxi drivers have stopped leasing cabs and started using their own cars with TNC’s, mostly Uber, because they are well known and offer the chance for them to make more money through Uber’s surge pricing. It’s not the TNC’s that are a problem, it’s the cab companies that have to charge the drivers so much in order for them to drive the cabs.

One taxi company owner was quoted asking the question, what’s to keep me from buying a bunch of cars and running my own ride share company? Well, to be honest, nothing. There are actually several that are doing so right now. The owner wouldn’t have to purchase the exorbitant taxi medallions [$250k/car], and they wouldn’t have to provide comprehensive insurance to the drivers as they do now, but they could rent the cars out to drivers who don’t own a car and collect on what they make paying a small percentage to the driver. Cab company owners like this idea.

For the drivers, they wouldn’t have to sit down and take a 7 hour class and test [yes, it’s not a very comprehensive test and they are allowed to consult notes] and they can get started quicker with no outlay of cash from their pocket. To get serious for a moment, what cabbies are taught in the training school is minimal at best and they usually take the test right after the class so what they do after they’ve passed don’t necessarily apply to what they just learned. The cab company owners don’t like that idea.

So in the end you’ve got the cab company owners pushing the drivers telling them how bad all the TNC’s are, when in reality it’s the system that the cab drivers have to work under that is the problem. When the TNC’s started as Ride Share companies there was a lot of anger at these new drivers, but now that many cabbies are moving over to the TNC’s they might be yelling at a fellow driver that’s just decided to switch teams in an effort to make more money.

I haven’t had a cabbie yell at me in months lately and a few have actually talked to me about how they could get into the business. One thing that sets apart cabbies from TNC drivers that I think a lot of cabbies learn quickly is that they’re driving their own car and they can’t treat it like a car they’re renting for a shift. Everything is now on them to keep the car looking nice and they have to make sure the brakes are working and the shocks are in good shape, not the company owners. That’s a new way of thinking for a lot of cabbies, but if it makes them more careful drivers when they’re out on the road then everyone wins in the end.

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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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Cab Wars And The Taxi Mafia

Ssssh...I work for Sidecar. www.side.crChange has come. As of today Sidecar, Lyft & Uber have been made legit in spite of the cabbie protest down at city hall. While this still leaving airport pickups and drop offs up in the air [rumor is that they’re now arresting ridesharing drivers at SFO], it’s a good start. It still needs a final sign off, but it’s a step in the right direction.

For those of you who like to take a taxi in San Francisco you run into a problem. First there are only 1500 medallions so there aren’t that many drivers. Second, while against the law cabbies have been known for not taking passengers especially if they want to go out to the western side of the City. Third and finally you have the growing number of complaints levied against cab companies that don’t do much to help their image.

Enter the ridesharing companies who have crews of people who are all over the city and most of the Bay Area that don’t have a problem taking you to where the cabbies won’t. They don’t have bedbugs in their cars and they tend to be people who are more like those at a car show who are proud of their cars and work on keeping them up just to show them off.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for one of these companies and I have to say that I never realized how many people are still into taking cabs. I also hear on a daily basis all the complaints about taking a cab in San Francisco. The complaints are almost as bad if not worse than those about taking Muni. It seems like the time is right for someone who is thinking outside an old box to step in and offer an alternative.

Many of the complaints lodged against the ridesharing companies are more valid against the cab companies. Cabbies have to sit through a one week  training class. It’s not like cabbie college it’s more like traffic school in which you’re just there doing your time. There is no guarantee that the cabbies really know their way around the City and they aren’t taught things like 60 minutes isn’t an acceptable wait time and NO, according to the law you cannot deny someone a ride or pick up based on their destination. The background checks are pretty cursory as well.

I sort of feel sorry for the cabbies because they don’t realize that in of all places, especially San Francisco, you need to move forward with the technology. With the ridesharing companies you whip out your smartphone and call for a pickup the person usually calls you on the way to confirm everything and to see if there’s anything special like you’ve just been shopping and need to stash your groceries on the trip home and you can track their arrival via GPS. In most cases they get to you in under ten minutes, usually under five minutes.

When you get in many of the drivers have perks that they offer — anything from candy to water, etc. When you’re finished the driver closes out the ride and you’ll never hear, the machine is broken, cash only because there’s no machine, it’s all done with the smart phone and no cash changes hands. You’ll see the total [which with some you’ll see even before you call for the ride] and you tap a button and the money is transferred from your bank account and you’re done.

There’s no tricks or additional fees it’s just paying for the ride. No airport, child or baggage fees. Some of the drivers [myself included] have promo codes for new riders that will give them $10 credit on their first time riding with the service [my code is EventuallyEric hmmm…I might have to change that since it sounds like eventually I’ll get there which isn’t true.]

I like the ridesharing idea so much that I’ve even used it as a rider and I have to say that the ride was very pleasant and the driver who took me was a nice girl [Thanks again Jenna!] I needed to get from point A to point B quickly and without and attitude and that’s what I got. I did have a bit of a chuckle since I called for the ride in the Sunset District and she was there three minutes after I submitted the ride. Now just try THAT with a cab.

Sidecar In The City

Get Sidecar...Apparently there’s more problems in San Francisco than just Muni. It turns out that I was wrong and that there are lots of people who like to take cabs, but they have trouble getting one or getting one to take them where they need to go — enter Sidecar.

I’ve actually started driving for Sidecar mostly because it seemed like an easy way to get some extra money in my free time. It has been a good thing and I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started driving for them. First is that getting a cab in San Francisco is really difficult depending on where you live. Most of the cabbies only want to be in high traffic areas so places like the Sunset and Richmond will get you thrown out of a cab quick style. There really isn’t anything you can do about this, except call and hope you’ll get someone. If you hop in a cab downtown and tell them you’re going to the Sunset or Richmond be prepared to get thrown out quickly because they usually can’t get anyone to drive back to the high traffic areas they like.

Then you’ve got surly cab drivers. I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I took a cab in San Francisco, but I always remember they always looked and sounded grumpy. On top of that they would try and pull their tip out at the end before you could figure how how much you wanted to give them sometimes tipping themselves 50% of your fare.

Well Sidecar doesn’t work that way. You’ll need an iPhone or Android phone and download the app which uses GPS to tell the driver where you are [it gives them more info than that, but it’s based on your GPS co-ordinates]. You ask for a Sidecar and you tell it where you need to go and then all the drivers in the area are notified that you need a ride. Someone will pick up the call and come get you. There will be a suggested donation for the ride. All rides are done through donation and not a fare like a cab because that comes under a different set of rules then. Once the car gets there you hop in and they drive you to where you want to go. At the end when the driver closes out the ride on their phone you can pay then with your iPhone based on the suggested donation. You can add more for a tip or less if you like and I’ll get into that in a minute or two. People who drive Sidecars can be identified by the bright orange MOX [mirror socks] that are on their rearview mirrors. Much more discrete than the big pink moustache that Lyft drivers have to use and there’s no requisite fist bump when they pick you up [really? who’s douchebag idea was that?]

Now in the time I’ve been driving I had to say that I’ve met a lot of really fun people. No one creepy and almost all of them were happy that I was able to get to them so quickly. They’ve been all over the map from 20’s to 50’s and students to doctors so they’ve been a very interesting group of people to talk to. They always seem to like when I tell them that I’m born and raised in San Francisco and I usually hand them a card for this blog so if any of those people are reading this HI!

Now there’s a few things I’d like to suggest to anyone who uses Sidecar for a ride.

  1. The drivers only make 80% of what you pay them keep that in mind.
  2. I strongly suggest you at least pay the suggested fare and if within your means add a small tip. We appreciate it.
  3. Don’t pay less than the suggested amount. I’ve got a couple of friends who have been paid 80% under what was suggested and that sucks because the 80% is figured after the 20% is removed so it’s more like they paid 90-95% under.
  4. Don’t ever pay $0. Drivers can block you if you don’t pay or undercut the suggested price too much and if you start to collect blocks you’ll be banned from the system [it’s 3-5 to get blocked depending on who you talk to] because the idea behind it is that it’s a community of drivers and people who want to get some where not people you get to stiff for a free ride.
  5. If you need to pay less because you’re short on cash then you should think about taking the bus or at least tell the driver and try to keep the deduction at no more than 25%.
  6. Don’t wait forever to make the donation. If you don’t pay right away you’ll get a text in 24 hours and if you don’t pay then you’ll be charged the suggested fare. You have to keep in mind that the drivers don’t get their money for six days after you’ve paid so waiting a couple of days to pay is kind of bad form. Please try to pay within a couple of hours of your trip.

The drivers have to keep up their cars and pay for the gas and if you haven’t heard gas is getting expensive. I did use Sidecar as a passenger the other day and told the girl who drove me I was a driver and that I wouldn’t stiff her and even told her how much I was going to pay. My drive from the Outer Sunset to Inner Richmond was suggested at $17 and I paid her $20. She gets $16 of that. I think I made her very happy.

I’ll keep doing this for awhile because with Sidecar it’s cheaper than a cab for most people and when I want to drive people I run the app and get ready to hop in my car. I don’t have any schedules so I get to drive whenever I get free time and I drive a few hours every day. At the very least it got me to wash my car and I recharged the air conditioning today so it feels like I’ve got a new car once again. It’s also easy to move stuff around when I don’t have piles of empty McDonald’s bags in the back from my daughter anymore.

Oh and if you’ve never used Sidecar and want to give it a try you can enter the promo code EventuallyEric and get a $10 credit to make it cheaper for you the first time. I even made a little sign I put in my car.