Tag Archives: sidecar

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar launch real carpooling apps to discourage car ownership

Lyft, Uber and Sidecar all announced new ridesharing options today revolving around carpooling.

Uber launched UberPool in San Francisco. Its a way to request a ride and request to share it with another person heading the same direction.

uberpoolThe key is that if they don’t find a matching rider, Uber will give you a discount on your ride. Initially, until more people start using UberPool, it will be difficult to find two people with roughly the same start location, end location and times. An app that only did ridematching would fail to match most of the time. However, with uberX providing a reliable fallback, using UberPool has no downside.

Uber claims that UberPool is part of their desire for people to ditch car ownership:

Since the early days of Uber, we’ve been excited about the idea of providing transportation so inexpensive and reliable, people can actually sell their cars.

While the UberPool idea is simple, the implications are profound. On average, uberX already costs 40% less than taxi. Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40%! In San Francisco, how about $6 to Uber from the Castro to the Financial District? Or $10 from Sunset to SOMA? At these price points, Uber really is cost-competitive with owning a car, which is a game-changer for consumers.

UberPool has launched in private beta in San Francisco and will roll out more widely on August 15.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.18.49 PMAlso today, Sidecar announced Shareable Sidecars. They have been testing this feature in San Francisco for the last few months. Sharing a sidecar costs up to 50% less than a normal sidecar. Sidecar mentions that in many cases this is very competitive with the costs of public transit:

Now you can take Sidecar for 50% less, or just a little more than you’d pay for the metro or bus.

More than half of Sidecar riders use it for their daily commute, and Sidecar points out their value to cities:

Shared Rides are awesome for cities too. It takes cars off the road, saves space by curbing the need for parking, cuts down on traffic, slows street wear and tear and reduces pollution.

Meanwhile, Lyft launched Lyft Line today. Lyft Line is a new option in San Francisco for sharing rides with multiple people.

lyftline When using Lyft Line, you indicate your start and end points, and then Lyft searches for matching drivers and passengers. Within minutes, Lyft confirms you line and shows the price of your trip. The price is fixed, even if a matching passenger is unavailable.

Lyft claims that routes never add more than a few minutes to your travel time and that sharing a Lyft Line can cost 60% less than a normal Lyft. When using Lyft line, you can have a party of two. Lyft also suggests that if you have lots of luggage, pets or are an unaccompanied minor that you use a traditional Lyft.

UberPool, Lyft Line and Shareable Sidecars all provide lower cost, on-demand ridesharing for trips where the travel time is less important than the cost. In the case of Uber, they explicitly state that they would like to lower the cost to the point where it doesn’t make sense to own a car. These services are perfect for commutes with slightly flexible arrival times, longer distance trips, and trips to social events where travel time does not need to be minimized. Its impressive that they all launched on the same day.

Lyft, sidecar and Uber get a Cease-and-Desist letter from Los Angeles DOT

cease-and-desistPeer-to-peer ridesharing services have already had many legal challenges as they disrupt existing transportation services and work within regulations that were not written with them in mind.

On June 26, Lyft, Sidecar and Uber received cease-and-desist letters from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). (full letters here, here, and here). They already went through a similar situation with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last year. After negotiating with the CPUC, an agreement was reached in January of this year allowing all three companies to operate in the State of California.

LADOT threatened in the cease-and-desist letter that it would arrest drivers and impound their cars for up to 30 days, although this has not happened yet. All three companies continue to operate in Los Angeles. Lyft is asking anyone who enjoys using their service in Los Angeles to contact key city officials to voice support.

In spite of any California setbacks, Lyft announced their San Diego launch on July 3rd. Lyft now operates in three California cities: San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles as well as Boston, New York and Chicago.

A Post-medallion World

SF_medallionThe priceonomics blog has a great post on traditional taxis (medallion-based systems) vs new ridesharing startups (technology-based systems like Sidecar, Lyft, Uber and Instantcab). Its a great read about the current state of ridesharing in cities and the history and economics of the taxi medallion system.

The article talks about why medallions are outdated:

When this medallion system was introduced in New York City in 1937, there were 11,787 issued. That number remained constant unti 2004. Today there are 13,150.

The economics of being a taxi driver:

UCLA professors Gary Blasi and Jacqueline Leavitt found that taxi drivers work on average 72 hours a week for a median take home wage of $8.39 per hour.

The transformation from medallions to free market:

According to publicly available statements from ride-sharing companies, there is strong evidence that there are already more community drivers on the road than regular taxis in San Francisco. In San Francisco, the transformation from a medallion constrained taxi system to a free market is nearly complete. These ride-sharing companies are all rapidly expanding across the country.

The government’s reaction:

“These medallions are public assets. The value belongs to the people of San Francisco for the benefit of the transportation system.”
– Ed Reiskin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director

“I really hope we keep the medallion system and get rid of ride-sharing apps.”
– No one who uses San Francisco Municipal Transportation, ever

Read more on priceonomics »

Legal Issues with peer-to-peer Ridesharing

Peer-to-peer ridesharing company Tickengo has retained former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown to serve as their legal council in dealing with the cease-and-desist letters that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has been sending lately. According to Forbes, Brown is suggesting that it be legal for private citizens to offer peer-to-peer rides in their car and collect “donations” for this up to a maximum of the full cost of car ownership. AAA puts this at $8,776/year for an “Average Sedan” in an average location. As soon as drivers earn more than this in a year, they would become illegal under Brown’s proposed rules.
There are a few problems with this approach:

  • Will users with more expensive cars (which cost more to own) be allowed to drive more than users with smaller, less expensive cars?
  • Owning a car in a dense metropolitan area can be significantly more expensive than average, with parking and insurance costs being higher
  • What if a driver owns more than one car? Will they be allowed to use one car up to the $8,776/year and then switch to their second car?
  • Will this maximum apply to the driver or the car? Can the same car be used by someone else to achieve their yearly maximum?

Tickengo competitors Lyft and Sidecar did not follow the CPUC’s cease-and-desist letter (and $20,000 fine) arguing that the they don’t actually operate the cars or employ the drivers. These are just technology companies matching people up for carpooling (much like the government sponsored 511 Ridematch attempts to do). Tickengo removed its “instant ride feature” and the CPUC subsequently dropped the cease-and-desist. Lyft announced today that they have reached an interim agreement with the CPUC that allows them to operate while the CPUC debates rulemaking for ridesharing in California. (see official letter)

The CPUC doesn’t regulate “passenger vehicles carrying passengers on a noncommercial basis” – so the question is whether or not peer-to-peer ridesharing is commercial. If it turns out that matching up drivers and riders is illegal this may also imply that the Bay Area’s casual carpool is also illegal. It may also mean hiring a Task Rabbit or Exec to drive you somewhere isn’t allowed either.

Tickengo currently supports trips in six other non-california cities as well as Los Angeles, so even if ridesharing is declared illegal in California it can stil flourish elsewhere. However, given San Francisco’s compactness and high proportion of tech early-adopters, not allowing innovative transportation to operate in California would make it more difficult for services like Tickengo, Sidecar and Lyft to get off the ground.

If you haven’t yet tried peer-to-peer ridesharing, give it a try. A high-quality ride with reliable pickup, and the suggested donations end up being less-than-taxi prices.