First experiences - Uber and Lyft - NYC

Old May 3, 16, 11:26 am
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Richardson, TX
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First experiences - Uber and Lyft - NYC

Over the weekend, we were in New York for my 50th anniversary high school graduation reunion. My aunt graciously offered us a place to stay, and we then had to decide how we would travel between her house in Flushing, Queens, and the reunion events, which were in Manhattan. The house is not near a subway. Our options were to get to the Long Island Railroad somehow and then take the subway from Penn Station, or take a taxi, or take one of the shared ride services. We had never done that before, except in, of all places, Croatia, but in New York everything has its own set of challenges.

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 auntís 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 didnít stop in front of India House but parked up the street and called me. I said Ďwe are hereí 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 auntís house. Traffic on Friday night on the BQE and LIE was miserable. I was glad I wasnít 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 auntís 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 auntís 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 auntís 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.
jpmcdonough is offline  
Old May 5, 16, 12:32 pm
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Charlotte, NC
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Few pointers to help you out in the future...

1. Enter your address you are going to in the Uber App, this can be used be the driver as they too will see the address and can use the built in navigation if they wish (though sometimes driver's know better routes).

2. Make sure the pin of where you are matches where you really are as GPS can be a little off (or more then a little), especially in areas with tall buildings that may make the signal off a few or more feet.

3. When the vehicle is assigned it will provide the car type, driver information and the license plate. This is very helpful at airports and other locations with a lot of cars, giving a pretty narrow window of which car is yours.

4. Not all Uber cars will have the little sign, this is mostly for high volume Uber drivers, in big cities like NYC, you'll see them a lot, in smaller cities like Charlotte they are not that common, so don't get too accustomed or expect to see them.

5. Tipping is not required, it's a nice gesture but it should not be expected on any trip, nor does Uber have a process to add a tip (cannot comment on Lyft).
JLewisinSyr is offline  
Old May 7, 16, 9:27 pm
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Lyft does have a tipping option which I do like but prefer Uber's network and options. Also I like the double Amex points considering how much I spend each month (work expenses).

The other tips are good.

Shiner is growing is availability and popularity in NYC but isn't everywhere yet. More of a bar option than at restaurants unless it's a Texas BBQ joint. It's at 3 of my 5 local bars and about half of the overall bars I go to.
Yoshi212 is online now  

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