Just a few days ago some friends were remarking on the uptick of cars around town with pink mustaches on them. Was this some sort of baseball reference they did not understand? A political statement? A meme they weren't on board with? As we noted yesterday, it's actually a clever marketing gimmick for a thing called Lyft, a taxi alternative like Uber (only cheaper) that uses regular Joes and Janes in their regular old Hondas and a smartphone-based system involving "suggested donations," driver ratings, and tips.
Lyft is an off-shoot of the college-campus-based Zimride, and the startup just launched out of beta mode a week ago, thus the uptick in those mustaches. And already, taxi drivers are calling foul, the Chron is covering the story with the headline "Lyft for riders is a downer for SF taxis," but for god's sake they should have seen this coming!
Much like Uber, which makes use of idle limousines and car-service cars and charges a premium for their efficient, on-demand services, Lyft is coming to the rescue of an urban populace in San Francisco that has hardly ever been able to find a cab when it's needed one. Is it raining? You won't find a cab. Is it 8 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday? Forget it. You'd better look for a bus and let everyone know you'll be 40 minutes late. Is it Halloween or any other holiday on which people party? You might as well walk.
It's the obvious dearth of taxis in this town that has driven us and everyone we know completely nuts over the years as the taxi drivers publicly squabble with the city, and the SFMTA dribbles out a handful more licenses every year. And don't even get us started on the whole credit card issue in an age when fewer and fewer of us carry much cash, the sighing and kvetching and attitude we get from cab drivers when we want to use a credit card to pay is pretty much the last straw. That tip we were going to give you to offset the well publicized $2 processing fees the cabs have to pay for each transaction? Fuck that. You've just acted like allowing us to use a credit card was doing us a huge favor, and that is just anachronistic and dumb. Let's get with the 21st Century and deal.
Just as they did a year ago, the MTA board voted to approve 150-200 more cabs this week, which of course taxi drivers are screaming about because they think there isn't enough demand and their business will suffer. This was billed as an effort to compete with Uber, and SideCar, and Lyft. Meanwhile, you have Ed Reiskin at the MTA calling Lyft "completely unregulated," which isn't true Lyft has conducted thorough DMV and background checks on drivers and have so far only accepted 5 percent of the drivers who've applied. Also, they're 20% cheaper than a regular cab, on average, and they are now insuring drivers with a $1 million excess insurance policy.
Anyhow, we want the option of hailing a cab when we see one or knowing that we can get a car to show up in five minutes if we don't and no cab company in this town has ever been reliable when we've called them during a busy hour, ever. But the point is, the more cars the better. And in a city where getting to North Beach from the Mission or getting to the Marina from just about anywhere is essentially impossible via public transportation, we need all the help we can get.
Previously: Hail! City To Issue 150-200 More Taxi Permits