By Zane Fletcher, Culture Editor
Alone. Drunk. Scared. Far from home. A situation with which many college students are all too familiar. In the past, this situation has led to an early morning stroll for miles to a safe bed, or dropping an exorbitant amount of money on cab fare. Recently, however, technology has improved to a station where rides are no longer a thing of legend.
Two San Francisco based, pseudo-taxicab companies—Über, founded in March of 2009, and Lyft, founded in 2012 —have recently been brought into the fold of Omaha nightlife.
This reporter decided to give both services a try, just to see what they were all about.
When I first downloaded the Lyft app, I was greeted by an easy to use interface. After very little input of information (a Facebook sign-in and credit card information for billing purposes), I was able to call for the ride. Ten seconds later, I was alerted that a nearby driver, Bidur, was en route to my house and would be there in approximately six minutes. After waiting the requisite amount of time, I was greeted by the sight of a near-new sedan pulling up to my mailbox. I hopped in the front seat, Bidur introduced himself and asked my destination—then we were off.
Along the way, I grilled Bidur about his profession. Bidur, a 21-year-old UNO first-year-student, said that he had only been driving for Lyft three days prior, but seemed to have experienced quite a bit in his short time.
“I barely get anything on weekdays,” Bidur said. “But Fridays and Saturdays, I get quite a lot of people going to and coming home from bars.”
While his description of these return trips sounded not only unsanitary, but unpleasant (he had a passenger vomit in his car, as well as a couple attempt intercourse), Bidur estimated that on his first Saturday night he made $1500 before taxes.
The trip was a pleasant one for my part—good conversation, a smooth ride and cheap cost relative to a taxi service (Lyft offers five free rides for the first 15 days of membership) all played significant factors in my favorable experience.
My Über ride was much of the same, albeit with a different vibe.
Another simple download led to a similar interface as Lyft. After once again signing in through that omnipotent social media site that is Facebook, I was asked for my credit card information. Though Über does not offer free rides like Lyft, their prices were low compared to a standard taxi fare. The app features a sleek black design with a sharp “U” logo, which stands in stark contrast to the friendly smiling balloon and car logo of Lyft.
The schemata of the two companies belie their corporate agendas. Whilst Lyft bills itself as just a friend with a car giving you a ride, Über presents a tech-savvy entity, which uses words like “seamless” and “accessibility” when marketing itself.
Despite these fundamental differences, the ride with Über remained similar to that of Lyft. Another mid-level sedan rolled into my periphery, and for a second time I hopped into the front seat—this time of a car belonging to a friendly Iranian man who wished to remain anonymous. The driver reiterated many of the stories I had heard on my earlier ride: those of drunken stomach emptying, attempted coitus and the like.
The driver said pseudo-taxi services like Lyft and Über were fundamentally good for college students.
“They [college students] can not always afford taxis,” the driver said. “Über is a great way for them to stay safe and still have fun.”
In all, these services have performed remarkably in the cities they have been introduced. Lyft has expanded to more than 60 metropolitan cities in America, and Über has arrived in more than 70 cities internationally.
There have been some legal issues facing Über especially, regarding the illegality of an “underground” taxicab service. Shortly after its inception, Über received a cease-and-desist letter from the city of San Francisco on the grounds that the company was treading on the public transit authority of the city.
Despite its early and constant setbacks, Über and Lyft alike have received an abundance of praise from an amalgam of sources ranging a wide spectrum.
These companies are growing, and are here to stay. As America becomes further integrated into a technological community, businesses like Lyft and Über will become increasingly frequent, and increasingly used. The growing popularity of smartphones in particular will lend to their growth, and hopefully through humankind’s innovation, our world will become an easier place in which to live.