I downloaded the iPhone apps for Uber and Lyft. They work similarly. You provide your credit card information to the app, which verifies everything. Then you provide your departure location and your destination. You have to allow the app to be able to use Location Services while active. When you do that, even before you request a vehicle, you will see how long it will take for the car to come, and you can get a forecast of the cost, which is in a range of dollars, between 40 and 60 for our first trip. You can see all the little cars crawling around on the map on your screen. To go to the reunion cocktail party for my class, at a place called India House, nothing to do with Indian food but with old India traders, we chose Uber.
The car was driven by Ahmed, and was a Camry. We left my aunt’s house at 4:49 PM, having requested the car about five minutes earlier. We arrived at India House at 5:29 PM, a distance of 16 miles through miserable Friday night rush hour traffic on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and the horrendous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). He took us over the Brooklyn Bridge, which has no toll, and dropped us right at the door. Ahmed is from Pakistan, speaks excellent English, and has lived in the US for one year. He lives pretty close to my aunt, staying with his uncle in Bayside. Nice guy, and a cautious, careful driver. The fare was $44.50, and I gave him $5 cash. I think you can tip through Uber but wondered how much he would get. Uber sends you an email summarizing the trip, actually quite detailed, which is where I got these statistics.
After the reunion party, which was a huge success, we summoned another Uber car. This time it was a Lincoln Town Car, driven by Syed. The car appeared almost immediately, but he didn’t stop in front of India House but parked up the street and called me. I said ‘we are here’ and waved at him. Uber cars have a little lighted symbol to aid in identification. He pulled right up. Syed was an extremely aggressive driver. He was also from Pakistan, but I could not understand his response when I asked how long he has been in the US. He needed a little help with navigation getting to my aunt’s house. Traffic on Friday night on the BQE and LIE was miserable. I was glad I wasn’t driving, especially after three or four Coronas (no Shiner Bock in New York), and I was also glad to be sitting in the back seat with my wife and not able to see much out the front window. He was really aggressive. We left India House at 9:03 PM and arrived at my aunt’s house at 9:39 PM. The fare was $42.60, and I gave him $5 as well. The distance was reported as 15.73 miles, probably because he knew his way around lower Manhattan a little better than Ahmed did.
The next day we went to the reunion itself at the school, located at 30 West 16th Street, which is between Fifth and Sixth avenues. I decided to try Lyft after reading an article in the New York Times about how the drivers preferred it over Uber. When you sign up for Lyft, they give you a credit for five free rides, which actually means up to $10 off for each of your first five rides. Our car this time was another Camry, and the driver was Mathieu. He got to my aunt’s house six or seven minutes after we requested pickup. Mathieu was a careful driver, perhaps a little too careful, because he would hang out in the left lane and drive the speed limit, and cars flew by on the right. He is from Haiti. When I learned where he was from, I started speaking to him in French. He just smiled widely and enjoyed it, but like every other French speaker in the world seems to do, he corrected me when I made a mistake, which was often. Mathieu picked us up at 2:56 PM and we arrived at Xavier High School at 3:32 PM. The distance was 13.61 miles. The fare was $45.02, including the Queens Midtown Tunnel toll, but the $10 credit reduced our cost to $35.02. I gave Mathieu $5 and he smiled widely and thanked us for speaking French. The LIE was not too bad on Saturday afternoon, although traffic like that in Dallas would have brought out the road rage for sure.
For our return we also chose Lyft. The estimated time was one minute, but the car got there before we even got to the sidewalk, and I saw the little light on the windshield and waved at him. Our driver was Tayeb and the car was some kind of a Lexus. Tayeb is from Bangladesh, and has been here four or five years. He has a business exporting construction equipment and, I presume, drives on the side. Traffic on Saturday night was unbelievably bad, and there was an accident on the LIE which brought it to a standstill, but Tayeb figured a way around it. He was a good driver, not too cautious and not too aggressive. He picked us up at 9:07 PM and we got to my aunt’s house at 9:53 PM. He did not need any help finding the house. The fare was $49.16, including the toll, but the credit brought it down to $39.16.
My impression of both shared ride services was very favorable. I would definitely use them again, especially in New York. The cars were clean, late model, well maintained, and the drivers were good, and interesting to talk to. The hardest part is identifying your car, if you are in a crowded location with a lot of vehicles. Had we rented a car, the cost would have been $250 or so, and we would have had to pay a significant amount for parking, and I would have been drinking water instead of Coronas. So it all worked out for the best.