It's a Saturday night and you're leaving the Real match. You've had a few and know you shouldn't drive home. Well, you can't because your friends were wise enough to take your keys. There you are, standing outside Energy Solutions Arena with your phone trying to get through to a cab company so you can meet some friends downtown at a piano bar - even though no one really needs to hear "Piano Man" ever again. The busy signal is incessant and if you ever hear "...your method of payment is very important..." one more time your phone might take flight. The good news is Salt Lake's night life is now easier and safer to navigate making cabs and UTA feel like rotary phones. The bad new is people are already working to stomp it out.
Salt Lake has been given a gift that cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle have been enjoying for some time. It's called ride-sharing and it works like a cab, but much more user-friendly and technologically advanced. Plus, if you're looking for extra income, they're hiring. It's a great way to make some money using your car (granted it's in good condition and you are not a psychopath). UberX, the everyman version of Uber, which in larger cities has black cars such as Lincolns and SUVs at a premium cost, along with Lyft are now up and running in Salt Lake.
Uber and Lyft are free apps for your smartphone. The interface is quite lovely. On Uber's app the little UberX cars peddle around, like homeless droids, waiting for you digitally hail one. You set your pick-up point and click "request." Once a driver accepts you need for transportation one of those cars will head your way. You also get a picture of who and what will be picking you up. When it arrives you get a text or call from the driver notifying you they are there and at your service.
Once in the car, you give the driver your destination and you're off. When you arrive and depart the app prompts you to pay. You're also asked to rate your driver on a five-star system. I rarely give less than five because everyone has been so nice up to this point. Tip is included in the price unless you feel the drive went above and beyond in which case you can add some extra monetary love.
The rating you give your driver matters. If a driver drops below a certain rating they won't be driving for the company anymore. This assures quality, which means creepy drivers and dirty cars won't fly. Payment is made through whatever credit or debit means you have attached to your account. Receipts are emailed to you.
Lyft works the same way, but stand out with the bright pink moustaches affixed to the grills of their driver's cars, which some find cheesy. The drivers are also instructed to fist bump passengers. I want a ride, not a ritual.
Who drives these cars? You do, your neighbors, college kids, bored house-spouses or anyone who wants to make some money and get out from in front of the TV. Drivers can rate passengers just as passengers rate drivers. I have had friends drive for Uber and heard some horror stories about passengers who've soiled their cars or been belligerent. Too many bad passenger ratings will assure no one will want to pick you up, so be nice.
I've used both services and like them a lot. There are also companies such as Car2Go: smart cars, which you can access and pay a minute-per-use fee including gas and insurance. The nice thing about these little guys is you can pick them up and leave them anywhere parking is metered as opposed to the Rise Share cars we have around Salt Lake now that must be picked up and returned in the same place. There's also ZipCar that work much like the Rideshare: you pick 'em up and drop 'em in the same place for a time-based fee. Side Car's another one that works much like Lyft and Uber. Car2Go, ZipCar and Side Car don't have plans to expand to the Salt Lake Market, yet. At least not that I could find.
My friends and I have been using these service for the last few weeks and love them. The only problem is at times there can be too few cars running, but this is something the market will correct.
The controversy with these companies has been some insurance issues. These have seem to have been worked out. The big backlash have come from cab companies, who have a hard time competing with the convince, selectivity and price you get with using an app, especially if you are out partying.
One downside, Uber and Lyft hike rates when it gets busy to limit congestion and tempt more drivers out to handle the swell. This can be aggravating when a ride goes from $10 to $15 or $30, but hey, that's the free market in action, right?
Another argument I have heard is this kind of service encourages drinking. This is asinine. If anything this service keeps more drunk people from getting behind the wheel, which is a great thing. It also encourages people to get out and be more social in their city, which leads to community building.
If you've had to deal with cab companies in the SLC you know it isn't always a pleasant experience. I've been asked to pay a flat free for a short ride and dealt with some shifty folks (one time I had a driver ask a lady-friend of mine to flash him). This isn't always the case with cabs, there are plenty of nice people who drive for these companies, but I've had enough odd experiences to make ride-sharing look very attractive. Plus, competition is good.
And UTA, which has its advantages, doesn't always run as late as you may need it to.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.