After months of waiting, we finally have ridesharing services here in the Southern Tier! Uber and Lyft launched operations right at midnight and many Binghamton area residents have already taken advantage of the new app-based travel options.
Unlike traditional cab companies, ridesharing services do not require a class-E license, special for-hire vehicle registration, for-hire vehicle license plates, and a separate insurance policy. You can read about all of the major regulatory differences here.
According to the New York DMV, all ridesharing services (they call them Transportation Network Companies or TNC's for short) must perform robust criminal background checks of drivers. The apps must display a photo of your driver along with the vehicle make, model, color, and license plate number. Drivers also must display the company logo prominently in their front windshield.
Also worth noting, the state does not regulate pricing, but does require that TNC's display your fair on their apps before you formally request a ride.
Haven't used Uber or Lyft before? Here's a basic how-to
1. Download the Uber or Lyft app and sign up for an account (I use both depending on how many promo codes I have for each)
2. Make sure the app is properly displaying your current location or intended pickup location
3. Enter your destination
4. Choose which type of vehicle and how many seats you need
5. Once the price is displayed, you'll have the option to request the ride. Drivers can choose whether or not to accept a fare, so there is a *slight* chance that one will not be available especially during high demand periods such as holidays,
6. Once your driver arrives, verify that the vehicle, plates, and driver all match the information displayed on the app
7. Once your trip ends, the payment info entered in the app (or web browser if you went that route) will be charged. Lyft allows in-app driver tipping while Uber plans to include it in a future update, but currently allows cash tipping if you feel inclined.
Learn more about using Lyft here
Learn more about using Uber here
Personal note, I have read a few arguments that cab drivers are more familiar to residents and that you never know who will be picking you up with ridesharing. To that, I say this:
1. This is the first day of ridesharing service. OF COURSE we aren't familiar with our local Uber and Lyft drivers yet. They're all background checked and drug tested plus the rides are GPS tracked. Is every cab ride GPS tracked in real time? Sure, cabs have labeled vehicles so a description of them isn't quite as essential, but do they send you a picture of your driver ahead of time?
2. The idea that you can call your taxi driver doesn't make that a better option to me either, here's why. BOTH Uber and Lyft have a feature that allows passengers and drivers to communicate with each other without either party's actual contact info showing.
3. Several of the anti-ridesharing comments on various local news stories have come from people working for cab companies. All that pushing back publicly so soon does is make me WANT to use the competition and see them succeed.
If you prefer cabs, use them! If you're like me and have found Uber and Lyft to be less expensive and more reliable in your personal experiences, then use them instead! That's the beauty of now having options.
Curious about the new state regulations on ridesharing? Read more about them here
Thumbnail Photo: Getty Images