A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Text the ‘stache for a ride

JoshuOne Barnes/Oak Leaf
Lyft driver Maxwell Austinweil offers a “lyft” to riders who use the smartphone app to seek transportation. The pink mustache is the company’s trademark.

There is an app for almost anything imaginable these days, even to train for the zombie apocalypse. While there isn’t an app that can magically teleport people where they want to go, there’s Lyft, the mustache ride.

Lyft is a mobile-to-mobile service that connects people who need rides with drivers. What’s unique about the service is that the drivers are everyday people using their personal cars sporting the company’s trademark pink mustache.

As soon as the rider turns on the app, it offers a quick description of nearby drivers and their cars. The rider then chooses from the list, and an alert is sent to the driver with the rider’s current location.  The rider uses the app to finalize the transaction and leave a tip.

Santa Rosa Junior College students Terra Flinn and Grace Davis both use Lyft regularly.  They first used the app on vacation in San Diego.  The taxi ride cost $40 to get from the airport to their hotel room, but with Lyft it only cost $15 to get from their hotel back to the airport.

Flinn and Davis now use Lyft when they need a designated driver. Flinn said she finds the app helpful after drinking too much to call someone to pick her up.

“I can work my phone, but calling is a whole other thing. You can just use your location too, so it’s not like you have to tell them where you’re at,” she said.

Davis and Flinn prefer Lyft to a taxi not only for financial reasons, but because they feel the drivers are friendlier and tend to be their age. “It’s usually just college students trying to make money,” she said.

Although Davis and Flinn usually never meet the driver until the ride, they feel safer getting into a Lyft car than a taxi because drivers use their personal cars.

SRJC student Jill Larson said that although she’s never taken a Lyft ride herself, her co-worker Alicia uses Lyft frequently. “She was all stoked because she likes to go out and know she has a safe ride home,” Larson said.

SRJC student Dilyn Stice has a friend who works as a Lyft driver. “I really like the empowerment behind it, in the terms that it’s just people helping people,” Stice said. He likes the fact that Lyft offers a more personal touch to paying for a ride home. “It’s a little cozier, like a cottage versus a hotel room,” he said.

Stice has heard many horror stories about the rift between Lyft drivers and local taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers’ outrage towards Lyft was made public recently in a KOAT ABC 7 report, in which taxi drivers in Albuquerque, New Mexico sued Lyft for not being a licensed taxi company.

According to the report, taxi drivers in New Mexico make only a third of the money they made before Lyft expanded into their area.  They see Lyft as an unfair service because the drivers aren’t required to have a special license or pay taxes.

Maxwell Austenweil, a full-time Santa Rosa Lyft driver, admits the taxi business has been affected due to Lyft. He said the reason why Lyft is cutting into the taxi business is that Lyft drivers are reliable and don’t leave passengers waiting.

“Cab drivers will tell them they’ll be there in 15 minutes and sometimes leave people waiting for a half hour,” he said.

Austeweil explained that Lyft works on a five-star system. The drivers will no longer receive alerts for riders if their scores fall too low. “People have gotten kicked off for having a four-star review. I currently have a 4.9, which is really good, but it is pressure,” he said.

The star system also controls drivers’ priority; if two drivers are in the same area, priority goes to the driver whose rating is highest.

Austenweil said he has had to deal with  strange characters but hadn’t any damage done to his car until about two weeks ago when he picked up three drunk women from a bar downtown. One of the women threw up on his car window, and he had to take his door apart with a mechanic to clean it.

“I didn’t report it because Lyft has a very specific way you have to report it. You have to take pictures and other things. I thought it was just easier to deal with it myself,” he said.

Lyft offers the first ride for free in order to introduce people to this new form of transportation. “When we first started we offered 25 free rides up to $25 in a two-week period,” he said.

As Lyft gains popularity however, these free rides are becoming extinct — but even then Lyft’s fares are still cheaper than a cab’s fares.

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Estefany Gonzalez
Estefany Gonzalez, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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