Are you wondering how to call a cab in the era of Uber and Lyft? And what is ridesharing, anyway?
What are Ridesharing Apps?
Now that people are gathering again at concerts, theatres, restaurants, and other venues, how can seniors get where they’re going without a car? Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are the obvious answer. But – it takes tech savvy to sign up for ridesharing apps…and they’re not as simple as the younger generation makes them seem.
Since 2009 Uber and its main competitor, Lyft, quickly replaced traditional cabs. Often these services were cheaper, often undercutting traditional taxi prices by 50% or more.
It’s called ridesharing, but that’s a misnomer. There is usually no sharing involved unless you elect to allow your cab to pick up more passengers who are going in the same direction. Most passengers use Uber or Lyft like they would a cab, for just themselves
Despite having been around for more than a decade, questions about ridesharing still abound:
Can you use a laptop or tablet to summon one? Or a phone call?
How do you pay? There are rumors of price gouging and sticker shock.
What if you can’t afford the tab? (Uber and Lyft were cheap before the pandemic, but a driver shortage has driven up prices.)
Are publicly funded options like Access-A-Ride in New York City, available elsewhere?
And the biggest question of all. How do you use that damned app?
Here are some answers to these questions and more.
Steps to follow to learn the app
Be reassured that if you have a smartphone and can read and access YouTube, you CAN learn to use ridesharing apps. It’s not all that difficult if you take the time to learn.
- Download the Uber app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
- After you have downloaded the app, read the help page on Uber and follow the tutorial when you are NOT going anywhere. Get familiar with it so you won’t get confused when the time comes to order a cab.
- This very helpful YouTube tutorial will walk you through it. Start with Uber since it’s the most popular and has the most cars available. Once you’ve figured it out the others are similar.
- Designate a credit card or cash app like Venmo to put a payment method into the app.
- Compare apps. If you want to download Lyft as well, you can compare the two apps for price and ease of use. Here is the help page on Lyft to get you started. In general Lyft is more transparent with pricing. Here’s a comparison of the two.
Ready to take a Trip? Here are the steps
- Open the app and put in the address you’re going to. When a nearby driver accepts your request, the app displays an estimated time of arrival for the driver heading to your pickup location. IF it’s an Uber, choose an Uber X which is the cheapest car, unless you’re traveling with a group.
- Look to see when the driver will arrive. The app will give you this information. You will see an icon on your phone showing where the driver is and how long it will take for him to get to you.
- Check out the name of the driver, vehicle type, and license plate number. This info helps the two of you connect at your pickup location. And keeps you safe.
- Leave a review for the driver when you get to your destination. Drivers depend on these.
No smartphone? No worries!
If you don’t have a smartphone, you can
Use a computer to order a rideshare cab. However, it’s not as convenient and lacks the flexibility and features of the mobile app. This article explains how to use Uber without an app by going to their website m.uber.com.
Call a Lyft, by dialing 631-201-LYFT This article explains it.
Sign up for Gogograndparent, a concierge service which will find a ride for you when you join for $9.99 per month. They also order deliveries and other services for you and oversee the trips
Ridesharing Moneysaving Tips:
- Travel during off-peak hours if possible. Uber and Lyft now have surge pricing where the price goes up during the busiest periods. But they also raise prices when they don’t have enough drivers. This article explains how it works and how to compare to save money on a trip. The difference in price can be significant.
- Use guru. Put in your destination and compare up to 8 options including a yellow cab plus a link to each company. There are other options besides Uber and Lyft and this site will tell you what they are.
- Consider using Via if you want to save. Via is a cross between public transportation and a taxi. This article explains it: When you request a Via ride on your smartphone, you’ll be matched with a driver who’s headed in your direction. En route to your destination, you’ll share a ride with up to five passengers that your driver may stop to pick up or drop off along their route. If you’re not in a rush it’s a bargain. It’s available in major cities only.
- Look for a free ride. If you are disabled, your area may provide free transportation. New York City provides Access-A-Ride for disabled people. If you have any mobility issues, call your local Agency for the Aging to find out what kind of transportation is available for the disabled.
Unless you’re a digital native there IS a learning curve to using ridesharing apps. But it’s worth it in the end for the money you’ll save and the ability to go anywhere at any time that ridesharing offers.
Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times. A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging. She’s the author of four books, including her memoir, I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State. You can subscribe to her newsletter at SnarkySenior.com or visit her website at EricaManfred.com