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.

I Told You So…

A bus passes through a flooded roadway Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, in Mill Valley, Calif. A storm expected to be one of the windiest and rainiest in five years swept across the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday, knocking out power to tens to thousands and delaying travel by air, train and ferry. Pacific Gas & Electric is reporting outages are widespread across the Bay Area due to weather, but officials weren't immediately available to give a specific number of outages.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

OK, I don’t normally like to crow like this, but I had received lots of emails from people calling me out on the El Niño predictions I had made a couple of years ago. It’s here, it’s queer, and it won’t go away.

What did you just say? Yes, El Niño is odd weather that lots of people don’t quite understand. Today was a pretty good example. Rain was coming off and on all day and there were heavy downpours that I could look out my window and see temporary rivers of water flowing down the street. Then shortly after it started it would stop. Sometimes there was so much water that even after it stopped there were still rivers flowing down the street. I went out driving at one point when it wasn’t raining only to be hit with a sudden downpour, yet the sun was out making the rain look like diamonds falling from the sky.

So why is El Niño different than our regular weather? Well it’s got to do with the ocean heating up which causes more evaporation which when the warm moist air hits the cooler land causes greater condensation and rainfall. The problem is that this occurs in patches. Somethings their big patches that make you feel like a fire hose has been turned on the city and other times they’re just short bursts from small clouds for 3-5 minutes.

Overall, it’s a lot of water. Today, San Francisco only got about an inch of rain, but it came so fast that it seemed like it was a lot more. Up North there was 2-6″ of rain which makes me feel like I’m glad I don’t live in Redding. For San Franciscans, it’s good that there’s more rain falling up North because that’s where our water comes from and the reservoirs have been pretty dry for the past few years. This won’t be an instant fix, but it will definitely help over time.

Looking back to the last El Niño we had in 1997 there are a few suggestions I’d like to offer. I was driving on 101 South a couple of days ago and there was a sudden burst of rain. So much that the roads didn’t know how to handle it and there was minor flooding. No big deal says all the tough guys, but a half inch of rain on the ground leads to hydroplaning and your car or the car next to you can spin out quickly and cause an accident. Within the city we have hills and underneath the streets are storm drains. I didn’t see any today, but remember when the storm drains filled so much that the manhole covers were popping up spewing water out. Even though you’re driving up hill there can be a couple of inches of water running down the streets because of the concentration from the storm drains so you’ll have to watch out for that as well.

If it starts to get bad, just pull over to the side for a minute or two and the rain will stop. Think of San Francisco turning into Hawaii without all that extra heat. We’ll be living a lot like we’re in the tropics for the next few months, but a little on the chilly side for now. My best memory of the ending of the last El Niño was New Year’s Eve of 2000. I was grilling out in front of my house because it was 80° out. We’ll get warmer and the weather will get stranger over the next year. Let’s all hope that this will bring enough rain to California to make a significant end to the drought. Last time it gave us too much water and this one is supposed to be bigger than before.

Keep your fingers crossed and stay dry.