Trying to find a taxi cab in a smaller city like Des Moines can be virtually impossible at times; however, in a bigger city such as St. Paul, Minneapolis they are seen almost everywhere.
What I didn’t expect to see when I visited St. Paul this weekend were cars affixed with bright pink mustaches driving throughout the city.
The cars are part of a ride-sharing service called Lyft, originally based out of San Francisco, which allows individuals to pick and choose their rides, as well as drivers, via their Smartphone.
After a customer registers, supplies their phone number, and credit card information, the individual can request a ride via the app. The app will supply the driver’s name, their past rating (out of five stars), and photos of the driver as well as their car.
According to Lyft’s website, the drivers are required to be over the age of 23 and are pre-screened for criminal offenses as well as driving incidents. Each driver’s average rating has to be at least 4.5 out of 5 stars, otherwise if they fall below the specified average they are removed from the pool of drivers, otherwise known as the "Lyft community."
The two drivers who picked up my friends and I were prompt and greeted us with Lyft’s signature ice-breaker: a friendly fist-bump.
The drives were smooth, the vehicles were clean, and the conversation flowed well. It was a very different experience, but pleasant one, than some cab rides I’ve ridden in in the past.
Lyft also provides an excess liability of $1 million covering passengers and third parties as well as covering drivers if they are hit by an uninsured motorist who is at fault.
When we arrived at our destinations, no cash was needed to pay the driver. A "donation" via the app, was processed as a credit card charge. Then, after the ride, the driver is rated on their service.
The service was launched in August in St. Paul and currently serves 23 other cities around the United States.
Share-riding services such as Lyft and Uber are gaining praise, but also have received criticism by city officials who have restricted the service because they are not licensed like traditional taxi cab services are. The service also is getting pushback in other states from traditional taxi cab services because individuals can schedule a pick-up rather than waiting for a taxi cab at the airport.
Although the power struggle continues as finger-friendly apps continue to pop up, in my opinion, the service is a great concept. Especially in areas like Des Moines, or even Dallas County, why wouldn’t a service like this be useful for those who want to make some quick cash and those who are in need of a ride? A service like this would be better than a DUI or potentially harming themselves or others by driving.
Maybe in the near future, we will see a service like this in the county.