Ditch Your Car Keys for Rideshare

Even though ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have been in the metro area for about four years, in all honesty, I never used either one until the Super Bowl “invaded” the Twin Cities. I was planning on heading to a friend’s pre-game party but didn’t want to mess with taking the Green Line, let alone getting in my car and dealing with traffic.

While I knew the wait might be a little long and the fare might be a little steep, I decided to finally see what the ridesharing craze was all about. The last time I accepted a ride from a stranger was when I looked for a ride from Duluth to St. Paul during my freshman year in college. I found my driver on a “ride share” board on campus, and all I needed to do was give him a $20 towards gas, and I bought him a stick of Beef Jerky and a Red Bull at the gas station.

I put in my request for an Uber at around noon on Super Bowl Sunday and got picked up around 30 minutes later. The ride was decent, the car was clean, the driver handled traffic well, and I spent about the same as I would have if I had taken a taxi service (after using the online fare estimator).

When I arrived at my friend’s party, I told everyone how impressed I was with ridesharing, and everyone gave me a hard time; clearly, I was the only one who hadn’t utilized the service until now. Even though I’m a late bloomer to using Lyft and Uber, just taking one trip, I can see the positive impact it can have in large cities like ours.

            Hey Minnesotans, Look familiar?

 Photo by Ron Cogswell licensed under CC BY 2.0

Drunk Driving and the Economy

Even though the official report isn’t in yet for the number of drunk driving arrests, during Super Bowl Sunday, Minneapolis Police are reported as saying that there were fewer arrests made than they expected.

With all the transportation options available (besides one’s own vehicle), there should never be any drunk driving incidents, but we all know this is still a prevalent issue in our state. According to the latest data available, there were 95 roadway fatalities involving a drunk driver and about 25,000 DWI arrests.

We don’t know how many drunk drivers are prevented with Lyft or Uber, but it most likely makes some kind of positive impact. Some research shows that Uber and Lyft have reduced the number of drunk driving incidents in larger cities like Austin, Texas.

Even if we don’t have solid stats to tell us otherwise, we definitely know that if we can get one drunk driver off the road, we’re all a little bit safer. I was able to relax (and drink) knowing that I didn’t have to figure out a way to get home after the party; I had an Uber ride all lined up.

While ridesharing services are controversial in the sense that they “steal” business away from taxi services throughout larger cities, it can help boost the economy. First off, it allows more people to join the gig economy and have an option to earn money away from the 9 to 5 corporate life.

If people have a safe way to get around (like when using Lyft or Uber), they are more likely to go out and spend money at a bar or restaurant rather than spending frugally just to make sure they have enough for parking.

Impacts on Congestion and the Environment

Ask any Minnesotan if traffic is nightmarish, and many will say, “yes.” While it’s true that Twin Cities traffic doesn’t even come close to congestion in Los Angeles, it can still be downright unpleasant.According to the INRIX 2017 Traffic Scorecard Report, Minneapolis ranked #85 for traffic congestion and is the 15th worst city for traffic in the U.S. Even though Uber and Lyft aren’t magical solutions to traffic congestion; it can certainly help.

Even though Minnesota has some decent rankings when it comes to air quality and overall environmental health, we all know that it could be better and reducing the number of cars on the road could help. Again, even though taking Uber on a regular basis won’t solve all of our noise and air pollutant issues, it may reduce the number of cars on our roads.

Many Minnesotans love their cars and like to be in control behind the wheel (I know that I do), but if you haven’t used a ride share service yet, give it a try. Not a resident of the Twin Cities? Ridesharing services have also expanded past the metro into areas like Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud, and Fargo.

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21 Responses to Ditch Your Car Keys for Rideshare

  1. Joseph Totten
    Joseph Totten March 16, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

    That Uber/Lyft will reduce congestion or emissions is questionable at best (https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/10/the-ride-hailing-effect-more-cars-more-trips-more-miles/542592/) but that it can allow you to drink and not drive, that it allows you to live with 1 car as a family, that it can encourage transit use and non-motorized transportation by providing a reliable backup, these are the environmental benefits of rideshare.

    Same with congestion, since the driver has to reach you and then drive you to your location, there is actually more vehicle miles taking Uber and Lyft than if you just drove. But if you are able to use transit more often and only Uber or Lyft when you have to, then on the aggregate congestion is reduced.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller March 19, 2018 at 10:23 am #

      Everything that’s potentially good about rideshare is better about transit, aside from personal convenience. It’s greener, cheaper, does more to reduce congestion, it’s just that you have to get to it and know the schedule.

  2. Tom Quinn March 16, 2018 at 4:18 pm #

    Ride sharing via taxi has existed for decades has it not? But avoided because of the expense? Uber and Lyft have made the experience cheaper and more popular by exploiting their drivers who make little and are too fragmented to unionize. Now taxi drivers are making a lot less due to this competition.

    Is this desirable?



    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman March 16, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

      Probably the lack of privacy and having to summon one and wait for one has something to do with it too. The fact that there’s all kinds of options to owning your own car in your garage, some of them a lot cheaper, but none of them that have made a big dent in car ownership outside a couple of our biggest cities, should mean that we should be cautions about predictions about society embracing TaaS vehicles.

    • Cobo R March 19, 2018 at 9:09 am #

      My experience with the taxi service has been horrible….. I don’t think I would call for another taxi in the Twin cities even if they were the cheapest option. My experience in Chicago was slightly better but still not good…

      But my experience with Lyft and Uber has been mostly good.

      So the taxi service needs to adapt or disappear… And Lyft and Uber need to sort out their issues (which seem to be fewer and easier). Its wrong to be complacent with mediocrity.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller March 19, 2018 at 10:27 am #

        Minnesota taxis are ridiculously expensive and offer sufficiently poor service that I try pretty hard not to use them.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller March 19, 2018 at 10:25 am #

      FWIW, the numbers in that first link have been retracted: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2018/03/06/criticism-valid-uber-lyft-drivers-might-make-more-than-minimum-wage-mit-paper-author-promises-revisi/398355002/

      I’m not sure that really undermines your point, though.

  3. Millennial Mac March 16, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

    I can’t see how taking an Uber or Lift would significantly reduce congestion. Instead of me driving my own vehicle, I am almost always a single occupant in someone else’s vehicle.

    And in ome case, they promote a sort of laziness. The bus is cheaper, and doesn’t usually take the weird routes the Uber app tells drivers to go.

    I don’t really see why people go gaga for ride-sharing services.

  4. Bose March 18, 2018 at 1:09 pm #

    I was an all-transit guy for a decade or so, supplementing with Uber as needed 18 months back. I’m now 5 weeks into having a car and driving for Uber, quitting my (sucky) restaurant job this week to drive full-time.

    As the rideshare market grows, another big impact is going to be declining demand for parking spaces and structures. The parking industry is already seeing it; some of my frequent-flier customers headed to the airport have mentioned being glad to trade parking cost for rideshare convenience.

    One of my riders, a single 60-ish real estate attorney, said he decided to go all-Uber as a 30-day experiment instead of signing up for a new high-end car lease. That was a year ago, and he never went back. It’s costing him less, he never has to think about parking, he’s getting mostly great service.

    At the same time, I’ve been surprised at how little I seem to have been vetted for this job. I had to take my car for an inspection, at which point an Uber employee checked my drivers license and insurance card, and had me sign off on them doing background checks. No Uber employee needed to ride with me for even 5 minutes to note my driving skills, temperament behind the wheel, customer service skills/aptitudes. Uber seems to lean heavily on riders’ 1-to-5 star ratings to gauge drivers’ skills, along with quick text/email follow-ups to sub-par ratings.

    Here in Phoenix, Uber’s R&D of self-driving Volvo SUVs serves as a constant reminder that the long-term prospects for drivers are likely to taper off sooner than later… it’s going to be a quirky/interesting industry to track over time.

  5. Scott Walters March 19, 2018 at 9:56 am #

    I’m now car free, and not regretting it at all. I’m mostly Green Line (living in Downtown St. Paul), a little bus, a little airport cab (same driver for about 15 years), and a smidgen of Lyft thrown in when none of the above work. It’s awesome, and far, far cheaper than owning a car. If I really need a car for a day or two, I rent from the Enterprise on University Ave…a quick trip up the Green Line to pick up and drop off.

    Lyft has provided a nice gap fill…it was always simple enough to call a city cab for a ride to the burbs for a gathering, but the ride back was always a crapshoot.

    For some reason, St. Paul has much nicer cabs than Minneapolis. Always has.

    • Jennifer Cannon March 20, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

      I have to agree with you on it being tough getting back from the ‘burbs with a rideshare. We went to a party last year and wanted to leave at midnight and couldn’t get an Uber. I found the iHail app and got a taxi at about 1AM. It’s also still a pain to get rideshare from some airports so I usually just grab a taxi. It’s nice to have options; no one size seems to fit all.

  6. GlowBoy March 19, 2018 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve only relied on these services as a last resort: I think I’ve taken Lyft all of three times, in each case because I just missed a bus or train for a one-way trip, and was looking at a long wait for the next one. Then again, although I try to use bikes and transit much of the time, I am a car owner and can fall back on that much of the time.

    I would agree with Joseph that the social benefits of ridesharing are still open to question. Traffic/congestion reduction? Probably not: all those non-passenger-carrying trips may actually adding up to a negative effect on traffic, though we don’t know for sure. The benefits are more in the number of people who choose not to have a car as a result of the availability of Uber and Lyft: that translates to:
    – Reduced residential parking demand and reduced environmental impact of the space they take up.
    – Reduced resource use in car production.
    – Fewer overall trips because ridesharing rations auto use better (you pay right away) than car ownership, where the only immediate cost is in fuel, which is only a fraction of the cost. Other costs, like maintenance/repairs, deprecation and probabilities of collision-related costs, are long delayed. A car sitting in a driveway is a big temptation.

    Personally, not ready to make the leap except for those last-resort situations. We have a young child in a car seat who needs to be transported to daycare daily, including during the winter months when biking isn’t practical: Uber and Lyft are not exactly young child friendly. And then we also have an older special-needs child who needs to be driven several miles to school and can’t take the bus, a daily trip which would quickly become cost-prohibitive if we took Lyft.

    • Justin D. March 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

      Lyft and Uber are as child friendly as taxis, and people with small kids certainly use those.

      • GlowBoy March 21, 2018 at 5:51 pm #

        Do you do this with your kids on a daily basis? I’d like to know what brand and model of child seat(s) you use, that are actually easy to install and remove on a revolving array of vehicles.

        Sure, taking taxis with kids was easy when I was a kid. You just sat the kids in your lap. You didn’t need special seats. Today that could get you arrested. Maybe some people still do that for occasional trips, but I would not want to subject my kids to that level of risk every day.

        Even with LATCH anchors, it can be tricky to find the right LATCH spots in an unfamiliar vehicle. Then find the spot for the upper tether and thread the upper belt over or under the headrest as appropriate (which often doesn’t align well with where the belt attaches to the seat, or raising the headrest interferes with the back of the child seat), requiring finesse of the headrest height while you do it. Then you pull on all the internal belts and hope the thing actually tightens up.

        With infant-seat bases it isn’t usually too bad, because they have the nice pushbutton LATCH hasps. With the convertible seats for older kids, though, you get these dumb LATCH clips that are really hard to release, and almost impossible at certain angles, plus the internal tightening mechanisms often refuse to tighten easily depending on the angles of the belts.

        It’s pain enough to remove and reinstall these in my own cars when I have to fold the seats down for bikes or cargo. It’s worse when I have to do it in a rental car, each one being different. I can EASILY spend ten minutes fussing to get the seat installed properly, and sometimes another five to remove it. Having to do that on a daily basis? No thank you very much. Until the car and child-seat industries can get together to define a real standard (and LATCH is barely the beginning of one), very, very few families with kids under 10-12 are going to use ridesharing regularly.

        • Davis Parker March 21, 2018 at 7:53 pm #

          It’s unclear how safe they really are, but we have used RideSafer vests on trips instead of hauling carseats on an airplane. It takes only slightly more time than buckling the standard seatbelt. It would work well on rideshare too. They are not for infants though.

          I don’t know how far you go to daycare, but I’d argue biking in winter with children is generally quite feasible and enjoyable! I just use a trailer so that in the event I tip over, the kiddos do not. They stay pretty warm in there too.

          • GlowBoy March 23, 2018 at 11:35 am #

            I do often do morning dropoff via bike in the warmer months. My younger child’s daycare is fairly close by, but the route there includes some sidewalk obstructions that are only barely passable by a trailer in the summer, and often not doable in winter.

            This goes back to the deplorable situation, as mentioned several times on streets.mn recently, of winter sidewalk maintenance in Minneapolis.

            Also, this doesn’t address the longer commute need for our older child. We only (reluctantly) bought a second car* a couple months ago to deal with this. I am NOT asking anyone to provide armchair solutions, but telling you our situation.

            And my point is this: that our situation, while unique on some levels, is indicative of the range of driving-kids-to-school situations that families have to deal with, and for which Uber/Lyft is often not a cost-effective or practical substitute. It can be great for single people and childless couples (and maybe even some families): we had kids late, and I wish it had been available for the many years when our mornings were simpler. But suggesting every family try to use ridesharing is a case of everything looking like a nail when all you have is a hammer: when you add in car seats and multiple schools (our kids are years apart, so there’s zero chance they will ever in their lives go to the same schools at the same time), and families’ transportation needs can be astronomically more complex.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller March 23, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

              It’s kind of a shame that we’ve designed out cities to where kids need to be driven to school. That’s not something that happened much for my generation even out in the ‘burbs.

              Then again, some of that is because of greater variety and selection of school options, which might be good.

              • Monte Castleman
                Monte Castleman March 24, 2018 at 9:40 pm #

                Probably some of that, some of there’s more two car families nowadays (my mother didn’t get a car until I was in high school so there wasn’t anyone available to drive us), some of increasing stranger danger paranoia, some of not expecting kids to walk in the snow / rain / cold like we used to.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller March 26, 2018 at 10:13 am #

                  On our block (which I’ve also observed elsewhere), the parents walk the kids to the bus stop and wait with them. That never happened when we were kids.

                  (We’ve almost certainly gone too far with our fear of stranger danger)

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller March 22, 2018 at 10:00 am #

          We don’t do it often, but I don’t use LATCH in an unfamiliar car. The manual for our (non-infant) carseat that using the belt was preferable to LATCH too, which surprised me.

          • GlowBoy March 23, 2018 at 11:37 am #

            Unfortunately, trying to thread the shoulder belt of an unfamiliar vehicle through a child seat, and securing it, is often just as tricky as using the LATCH anchors.

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