My Lyft from the Taxicab

I know the taxicab story is not new, but I could not help but recall my personal woes, and my subsequent satisfaction with ride sharing.

I cannot tell you how many times my frustration boiled into anger over waiting for cabs to pick me up from any given location. I have been late to appointments, events, and shows, having to call dispatch multiple times to ascertain when my cab would finally show up.

On Sundays it is impossible to get one. Once I waited an hour and a half before my final dispatch call resulted in an apology for not being able to get anyone out to my house.

Yes, there is an element of race to the cab experience – being passed around, cabs not coming to certain areas out of safety – but for the most part, it is just piss poor customer service. Simple transportation, getting from point A to B, should never be a harrowing and futile experience.

The only place I have ever had consistent success with cabs is at Penn Station, and the only reason that is the case is that cabs are competing over the flow of passengers coming out of the station. From early morning to late evening, there’s a long processional of yellow automobiles, anchored by a person stationed at a podium directing the traffic.

As with many things, it takes me a while to catch on. I heard about ride sharing – Uber in particular – and was mildly curious. But as it became more popular, I decided to investigate. Then came the scandals, and I refrained from signing on with them. But then I had a few friends who became Lyft drivers (one even switched from Uber to Lyft) and raved about their experiences.

So, one Sunday night I needed to get groceries, and I decided to try Lyft. My whole trip lasted one hour, and my Lyft driver was outstanding. On a fluke, he drove me and picked me up. That would not have happened with a cab, I can almost guarantee.

I’ve been a ride sharing fan ever since. Now it’s an integral part of my routine. I have not had one bad experience with Lyft. My average wait time for a Lyft is between 3-6 minutes. I get to where I am going efficiently, and for the same fare, if not a little cheaper than a cab. They have proven to be the most reliable form of public transportation.

I hear cab drivers griping about how ride sharing companies are taking their business. There was even that incident in New York where a cab driver committed suicide out of despair. That was tragic.

However, and perhaps it is wrong of me, I simply do not have any empathy toward cab companies. Up until this decade, they have been a monopoly, so they have been operating with impunity. People’s lives have been adversely affected by their ill treatment. I believe cab companies have possessed an arrogance for too long, and it had been long time for another industry to challenge them.

Never again do we have to contend with grossly late or absent cabs, fighting over fares, dirty and smelly cabs, drivers that calibrate their meters to make it go faster and taking longer routes to make more money. I have had several great conversations with Lyft drivers, who maintain their vehicles, and because the transaction is done through the app, I never have to contend with cash or attitude.

Bottom line, ride sharing is here to stay, so cab companies better step up their game, or get out of the transportation business altogether. I personally won’t miss you.

Ron Kipling Williams