This is big news: Legislation just passed to allow Lyft and Uber to operate in the Hudson Valley. Lyft and Uber are app-based car services that people like you and me download on our phones, tell the app where we are standing, and then an alert goes out to drivers also on the app to let them know that we need a pickup somewhere. Your credit card is attached to the app, so you pay for the ride immediately, without no need to take a card out of your wallet. You can see a picture of the driver and watch their car drive to you - all while in the app.
Your friends can (almost) instantly become taxi drivers by being on-call drivers that people order from their apps in Lyft or Uber. No matter your politics about the ridesharing economy and its impact on the taxi industry, there is no denying that the Lyft and Uber apps have changed the way people get around - all over the world.
HudsonValleyOne has produced a great article about the general overview of this type of transportation, and how it was or was not accepted in Kingston. Bottom line is: There's a new competition in town for how people get around. We have ZipCar for car rental, car dealers for car owning, and now ridesharing for quick and affordable car trips places.
Why Are Lyft and Uber Useful to Local Beaconites and Hudson Valley Peeps?
Oh, let us count the ways!
- Tired: You walked really far from your house, and are too tired to walk home. Lyft it!
- Pregnant: You're pregnant (like me!) and don't know who will drive you should you go into labor during the day when everyone is at work. Lyft it!
- One-Car Family: You have one car in your family, and your partner is using it, but you really need to get up 9D. Lyft it!
- Train: You need to get to the train station and don't feel like walking, and have 9 minutes to spare. Lyft it!
- Shopping Spree: You live on the West End of Beacon but just indulged in a major shopping spree #BeyondTheBend on the East End of town at Style Storehouse, and then Kaight, and picked up a bunch of makeup at The Blushery. Too many bags to carry home. Lyft it!
You get the idea.
The Business of Taxis vs Ride Apps and "the gig economy"
This has been a fun business drama to follow. First there is the disrupting of the traditional taxi industry. When once taxi drivers were known to be rude or have dirty cars, or balked at you when you took out a credit card to pay when credit card machines got put into taxi cabs years ago, they now have to be a little nicer because people aren't hailing them as the only resort. People can tap their phones and find someone who'll happily pick them up. No more looking up phone numbers to local taxi cab companies, only to find a wrong number or one where no one picks up the phone.
The gig economy is one where someone can decide to pick up some extra cash on the side of (or instead of) a so-called "regular" job. Grandmothers, college kids, graphic designers, and everyone is becoming a driver for Lyft or Uber. Heck, it makes you keep a clean car, that's for sure.
The taxi industry is upset that these indie-drivers don't have to deal with the overhead that they do: carrying liability insurance, finding dispatchers, office rentals etc. Kingston Kabs owner Jeff Weintraub was quoted in the Hudson Valley One article when he wrote to Kingston Mayor Steve Noble: “My point is that before you wrap your arms around these entities, take the time to analyze and learn about what we do and the problems we face,” wrote Weintraub. “Perhaps the first step is to deal with the present system, clean it up, and see if local business people with local workers can provide the service you want [and] the people of Kingston deserve.”
The trouble with that approach is that ridesharing has been around for years now, and has improved people's lives - both people who want a ride, and those businesses who benefit from more people getting there safely. The Kingston mayor responded with this: “Now we have this technology that has worked in other places. We have more and more people coming into the city who have this technology on their phones and are wondering why it’s not working here.” So many people who live in the Hudson Valley access Lyft and Uber when they are not in the Hudson Valley, like when they are visiting friends in Chicago, New York City, or Columbus. To not be able to use these services in one's hometown or city, when they can in so many other towns and cities, opens a dialogue for questions.
So we reached out to our friends at Beacon insurance agency Antalek & Moore to tell us how the insurance part of it might impact gig economy drivers who, so far, are not required to carry liability insurance. What did we learn? It's a big risk for indie drivers, as insurance companies are opting not to fulfill claims when the app is on and they are waiting for pickups or driving a client. More to come on that next week!
How Do You Use Lyft and Uber?
Using Lyft and Uber is one of those things that is so easy, you might complicate it by overthinking it. If you have a smart phone, and if you know how to get to your App Store or Play Store, you just download Lyft or Uber. (I'm using Lyft until Uber can smooth out its sexist corporate culture issues and wannabe do-gooding campaigns that end up backfiring on them.) Put in your address and credit card information. Then just tap the main button to activate a ride to come to you.