Hailing a taxi nowadays can feel downright old-fashioned. New ride-sharing alternatives — such as Via, Bandwagon, Tripda and RideWith — are springing up in major cities and at airports. At the same time, established car services like Uber and Lyft are continuing to expand to more corners of the world while adding bells and whistles like Starbucks rewards points, free beach bags and on-demand water taxis.
When it comes to ride-sharing and car-pooling, apps and services are mushrooming.
Among the many players in that world is Via, a Manhattan-based ride-sharing app with a flat fee: $5 per person (plus tax) for trips purchased in advance through the app’s “ride credit” feature, which can be replenished in $25 or $50 increments. If you don’t fund your “ride credit” account, it’s $7 a ride.
Chances are you won’t have the vehicle to yourself (you’ll most likely be riding with three or more people), but you’ll spend less than you would for other car services. Via, which says it uses professional chauffeurs, is available for trips in Manhattan between Houston and 110th Streets, on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Another contender is Bandwagon, a Brooklyn-based start-up that, unlike most competitors, is working in conjunction with local cabdrivers. In late May Bandwagon began operating at La Guardia Airport, where it matches passengers in taxi lines during peak travel periods who are going in the same direction at Terminal B and, beginning this month, C and D as well. At the moment Bandwagon staffs the taxi lines Thursday and Friday evenings, though a spokeswoman for the company said it plans to add more evenings and some mornings.
To participate, passengers can download the Bandwagon app (register with an email address or a Facebook account) and then post their route. If Bandwagon finds a match, it notifies both parties and then allows them to chat via the app so they can meet. At La Guardia, first-time users are generally signing up through on-site kiosks. When passengers are matched, they receive a text message telling them to go to the front of the line and meet their taxi share. Each party then pays a $5 fee for the service and is sent a receipt via text. The first person to be dropped off pays a portion of the metered fare plus a tip to the last person being dropped off, either through the Bandwagon app or in cash. The last person being dropped off pays the cabdriver in full.
If the program is successful at La Guardia, Bandwagon said, it will also be introduced at Kennedy International Airport in New York and expanded at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where it is currently offered only in Terminal C. In the coming months, Bandwagon, which has been available at a number of convention centers in the United States, plans to begin operating at other major airports in the Northeast. The company said it has received requests to operate at the Port Authority Bus Terminal as well, and at the Virgin terminal at Kennedy Airport.
A few weeks ago, Bandwagon began promoting on its blog yet another ride-sharing app and website, Tripda. What distinguishes Tripda is that it’s specifically for long-distance travel, like a ride to a college campus or a music festival. Founded last year, Tripda users can review fellow drivers and passengers and share those reviews with members of the site.
Drivers set the price for the trip as well as their personal rider compatibility preferences, which can include nearly anything be it whether passengers are welcome to bring a pet or a McDonald’s Happy Meal. To participate, you register through Facebook, then search for or offer rides. Passengers pay the cost of the ride in cash directly to the driver.
And then there’s Google. Continuing its foray into travel, the company last month began testing a car pool service called RideWith by Waze, the traffic and navigation app. Given that it’s a pilot program, it’s available to only a select few: You’ve got to be an Android user in the Gush Dan area of Tel Aviv (where Waze was developed) during rush hour. But of course if the test goes well, who knows? It could end up in your neighborhood. RideWith aims to connect local drivers with Waze users who, say, commute to the same area. (Riders pay a contribution to the driver, which is determined before the trip and is based on the price of gas and wear and tear on the vehicle.)
Don’t want to share your car? There’s Gett, which was founded in 2010 as GetTaxi, and is available in the United States, Britain, Russia and Israel. In Manhattan, the company is trying to undercut brands such as Uber by offering $10 flat fares in black cars anywhere south of 110th Street — with no surge pricing for bad weather, rush hours or traffic (though passengers may pay taxes, tips and tolls).
When it comes to veterans like Uber and Lyft, it seems that every week some airport, city or state is either greenlighting them or trying to shut them down. In Montana, regulators just approved new rules to let Uber and Lyft operate there. In New York City, after proposing to cap the number of vehicles Uber operates, ostensibly because of traffic congestion, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Uber have reached a deal that involves studying the underlying causes of the congestion. In Los Angeles, where such ride-hailing services are barred from operating at Los Angeles International Airport, City Council members are in the midst of examining the airport permit process.
Yet a new wrinkle emerged recently when The Los Angeles Times reported that at least four men who were ticketed by Los Angeles airport police while driving for Uber had criminal convictions that would prevent them from operating a taxi in the city. The landscape is constantly shifting.
None of this has stopped Lyft or Uber, which is reportedly poised to receive a sizable investment from Microsoft, from innovating.
In June, Uber introduced UberBOAT in Istanbul, in partnership with Navette, a boat company. To order a speedboat (which can accommodate up to six or eight passengers), users near the Bosporus can open their Uber app where, under the vehicle menu, an UberBOAT option should appear. If a boat is available and it is selected, a captain should call, confirming the ride.
The cost is based on distance (nautical miles) and time and, as with all Uber vehicles, is automatically charged to your credit card at the end of the trip. Crossing the Bosporus (Bebek to Kandilli, for example) is around 50 to 60 Turkish lira (about $18 to $22). UberBOATS can also be used for longer trips as well, such as to the Princes’ Islands.
Not heading to the Bosporus anytime soon? How about Starbucks? In late July, Lyft announced that passengers could earn Starbucks rewards points toward free coffee and food. In fact the new program goes beyond ride-sharing to, well, coffee-sharing. Passengers using the Lyft app can decide to give their driver a Starbucks gift card, effectively tipping for that morning commute not just in cash, but caffeine.