The team put together a fascinating story entitled “Ditch Your Car” a couple months ago. In it, we profiled an L.A.-area businessman who traded car ownership for full-time ride-hailing via Uber and Lyft. We’re big fans of cars and car ownership here at MotorTrend, and we know that our readers are, too, so I was curious what the response would be, if any. I was not disappointed.
Dear Mr. MotorTrend:
I imagine you’re some young squirt, all full of himself. You say it’s “clear that Uber and Lyft offer a superior experience to taxis with the ability to hail a ride via an app, pay via credit card, and rate your driver.” I say balderdash! The app is on my phone, which I can use to hail a taxi if I can’t just wave one down. Then I can use my credit card to pay with a simple swipe inside the taxi. And I don’t have to waste my time “rating” anyone. The only thing missing from the taxi experience is the existential joy of learning my Uber driver “liked” me (another waste of time).*
Mr. or Ms. Curmudgeon is right and wrong; while I am certainly not young, I am quite often full of myself. But I do know a thing or two about hailing rides in both cabs and privately owned vehicles via mobile phone apps, which we’ll get to below. First an update:
Uber and Lyft are two of the handful of Silicon Valley “unicorns” (startups with over $1 billion in valuation) set to go public this year, with Lyft leading the way. As unicorns go, they are two of the most magical around. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lyft has pegged its valuation between $21 billion and $23 billion—or roughly the spread between estimates of Uber’s valuation, which analysts predict will be between $100 and $120 billion dollars. Insane? Indeed. Yet for all the high-dollar hype, neither company has turned a profit, and there looks to be significant headwinds on the horizon.
As this column went to press, Uber and Lyft drivers were on strike in Southern California, in protest to Uber’s 25 percent reduction in pay-per-mile (from 80 to 60 cents per mile). Although Lyft has not followed suit, it appears its drivers (many of whom drive for both services) want to make sure the company gets the message.
The last time I wrote about Uber and Lyft was in the March 2018 issue, when I mentioned my earlyish (2013) adoption of ride-hailing apps as a solve for the poor taxi service in Los Angeles. After years of Uber and Lyft as my go-to for work travel, I have recently returned to taxis, especially when coming home via LAX.
Why? Because on any given day, you can see crowds of travelers, milling around outside the LAX departure level, at the half dozen ride-hailing pick-up spots, rubbernecking between the phone and cluster of arriving cars to see if their Uber or Lyft has arrived. Those inbound drivers clog traffic for outbound travelers despite the airport’s attempts to coordinate with the app companies and centralize pick up locations. This is not a unique situation and happens at airports around the country.
Meanwhile, down on LAX’s arrivals level, there are usually neat lines of cabs at established, easy-to-find taxi stands, just waiting to pick up weary travelers. If there are none, there is a human dispatcher onsite to put out the call, or you can do it yourself via cab-hailing apps like Curb, which works just as seamlessly as the unicorn twins. Cabbies have also upped their game. They usually get out to help open trunks and load bags and no longer give stink eye when you mention that it’s a short ride or that you’ll be paying by credit card—if you have to mention it at all. Curb (and others) allow you to load a credit card and pay (with tip) via the app, which speeds the process and (key for business travelers) provides a digital receipt.
*Curmudgeon misquoted our story by changing the tense from offered to offer. Our point was that when Uber and Lyft arrived on the scene, they succeeded by being true disruptors to the hidebound and apathetic taxi industry. I give full credit to Uber and Lyft for not only introducing an entirely new way of getting around but also forcing a 100-year-old industry into the 21st century.
But the game has changed again. For Uber and Lyft, it’s adapt or survive, so goes the mantra. Hail me on Twitter @edloh if you agree/disagree or have an Uber rating better than mine (4.77).
More from Ed Loh:
- Drift This!, Head 2 Head, and NEW Shows Are Heading Your Way
- Countdown to Our Electric, Autonomous Future: How Soon Is Now?
The post Ride-Hailing vs. Cabs: How the Game Has Changed Again – The Lohdown appeared first on Motortrend.