Catching a ride from a stranger isn’t just for hitchhikers anymore. Now, ride sharing apps let passengers and drivers — who are just everyday people, unattached to a taxi or livery company — find each other in a tap.
For drivers, it’s a great way to earn a little extra cash. And for riders, it’s the perfect way to save some. At the end of the trip, both drivers and passengers can review each other right in the apps to help regulate the community. It’s driving traditional cab companies and some cities crazy, but ride sharing has become wildly popular across the nation. Boston is no different, so here’s our roundup of companies that could become your new carpool, as well as some bike-sharing options for good measure. Next
How it works: It’s easy to spot one of the hundreds of Lyft cars nationwide — every one of them wears a fluffy, pink mustache. The company encourages drivers to pick up passengers along their route while doing everyday tasks, like running errands or driving to work, not to wait around for customers like a cab. Lyft has been accused of running an unlicensed cab company in California and is running in Los Angeles and San Francisco under an interim operating agreement while it sorts things out.
Safety features: Drivers must be at least 23 years old, have had their license for at least three years, and have personal auto insurance. Lyft also provides drivers with $1 million in liability insurance and conducts DMV and personal background checks.
Price: A recommended donation based on the time and distance of a trip. According to its website, the average suggestion is $15. The company takes a 20 percent cut of each donation.
How it works: The process is simple and rewarding: Park your car in an East Boston lot before heading to Logan, and hope someone rents it out while you fly off to your destination. You get up to $20 a day if they do, a free car wash, and a ride to the airport in a Lincoln Town Car. And if your car takes a vacation too? You get free parking anyway. The San Francisco-based company has already received three cease-and-desist orders from San Francisco International Airport because it hasn’t applied for a permit. Chief executive Rujul Zaparde, 18, says FlightCar doesn’t need said permit in part because it doesn’t rely solely on the airport for customers.
Safety features: FlightCar insures each car for up to $1 million, will reimburse the owner for any damages, and provide a rental car if needed. It rules out renters with anything more than two minor accidents or speeding violations.
Price: Depends on the year and model of the car; some are as low as $30 per day. Next
How it works: Owners get to approve people asking to rent their car, and then either bring their cars to Logan or meet up with the renter at another location to hand over the keys. As of this writing, there are about 30 rental cars signed up in Boston. In 2o12, New York City cracked down on RelayRides for “repeated false advertising and violations of insurance law”; the company billed itself as 100 percent liable in case of accident, but in reality, drivers and owners might still be found liable.
Safety features: $1 million in liability insurance, the option to turn down renters, 24/7 roadside assistance and support, and a requirement of no more than two minor violations in the last three years or one minor violation in the last year.
How it works: Uber lets users hail a professional driver right from their smartphones. The app automatically charges the credit card you have on file — no need to bring cash or, for that matter, your card. Uber itself doesn’t own any vehicles or employ the drivers. It just helps you find your ride as soon as you need it. The city of Cambridge just lost a lawsuit to keep Uber off of its streets after the courts refused to overturn a state ruling allowing it to operate. Cambridge contended that the GPS technology that Uber uses to calculate fares is untested and could therefore be detrimental to consumers.
Safety features: Uber’s customer service is available 24/7, and its savvy technology can even help reunite you with items you might accidentally leave behind.
Price: Your fare depends on the vehicle you order. An uberTAXI costs a $1 booking fee, a $5 base fare, standard meter rates, and an automatic 20 percent tip. You also have the option of ordering a private car, sedan, or SUV.
How it works: SideCar tells drivers how many requests there are in their area, giving them the freedom to decide which jobs they’d like to take on. Riders, after requesting a ride, get a photo of the driver and his or her car for easy identification. Unlike Lyft, which encourages drivers to pick up passengers as they go about their daily routines, SideCar drivers can get a $15/hour guaranteed wage if they commit to certain schedules. Otherwise, they can go on or off line and pick up riders at any time.
In November 2013, SideCar was issued a $20,000 fine in California for not having required state permits.
Safety features: Background checks on drivers, verification of insurance and licenses, $1 million in insurance, live support at any time, and mandatory in-person orientation meetings with every driver as part of its 10-point screening process.
Price: A suggested donation that riders can bump up or down. SideCar gets a 20 percent cut. Next
How it works: Unlike most companies, which require you to be at least 21 to rent a car, Getaround lets 19-year-olds join in. With cars that feature the Getaround Carkit, you don’t even have to hand the kid your keys—renters can unlock your car with their smartphone. And, like RelayRides, car owners can deny someone the use of their car. It’s not yet available in Boston, but you can check it out if you’re visiting San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Chicago, or San Diego.
Safety features: 24/7 roadside assistance, $1 million in coverage backed by Berkshire Hathaway, and a DMV and background check that hits 16 points, including Facebook and the credit bureau to make sure renters are using their real identities.
Price: As low as $3 an hour, according to a press release. Next
If all of those car and ride sharing options are doing a number on your brainwaves, RideScout can make perfect sense of the chaos. The app consolidates all available public transit, taxi companies (in Austin only), and peer to peer services into one place so that you can compare rates and wait times. Riders and drivers have the option of calling each other directly from the app and canceling at any time. Next
How it works: Bikers can make 30 minute, one-way trips between stations all over Boston on one of Hubway’s bright green bikes. All they have to do at the end is dock it in time. Concerns about helmets not being readily available for spontaneous bikers and a potential lack of basic city-riding know-how haven’t stopped Hubway yet—it’s looking to expand to Dorchester, Roxbury, and South Boston soon.
Citibike, New York City’s equivalent, got off to a rather bumpy start.
Safety features: Riders are encouraged to bring their own helmets and brush up on basic bike safety. Each Hubway bike includes front and rear flashing LEDs, wheel reflectors, adjustable seat height, a step-through frame for a lower center of gravity, and plastic casing around the cables to prevent breakage.
Price: A 24-hour pass costs $6, a three day pass is $12, and for a yearlong pass that lets you bike any time except winter, you’d pay $85. Late fees start at $2 for the first half hour that your bike is overdue.
How it works: Lime not your color? Spinlister makes bike sharing easy. Users can rent bikes from everyday people or existing bike rental shops in the area. The site helps renters and riders meet up and exchange the bike through its messaging system. Bike owners share their favorite routes online for renters to get ideas on where to head on their borrowed wheels.
Safety features: If your bike is stolen or lost on Spinlister’s watch, they’ll reimburse you for the fair value of the bike, up to $5000. Users login with Facebook to verify their identities, and it keeps a credit card on file as well. The website also has helpful tips and basic bike safety info for riders to review before setting off.
Price: Set by users, but some start out at $5 per day. Spinlister gets a 17.5 percent cut.
How it works: All right, so you won’t be using this any time soon. But file PlowMe away under “things to remember” for winter. The cheekily-named service allows users to essentially hail a professional snow plower to clear up the driveway. Turnaround time can be pretty slow — its website estimates about 75 minutes from when you place your request to when the job is done. You can request a one-time plow or, if you find yourself needing rescuing more often, join a route for continuous service.
Safety features: If anything goes wrong with your landscaping, the “plowguy” will arrange to come back and help fix the damage in the spring. Each PlowMe plow is also insured.
Price: You get to set a limit on how much you’re willing to pay, and drivers can choose the jobs that they’re willing to take. PlowMe gets 20 percent of a one-time job and, for recurring service, 50 percent of the take from the first storm and 10 percent for every one thereafter.
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