Regular public transportation might be on its way out, thanks to new ways of travel that involve the word “sharing.”
From sharing car rides to sharing bikes, getting around just got a lot more friendly – and cheap. Ridesharing is a great service for those times when you’re on vacation but stuck without a car or bike. Now you can get around easily without pushing your budget, and maybe meet new people along the way. New car and bicycle services that allow you to arrange transportation on your phone are becoming so popular, there’s even a service that willtake your kids to soccer practice for you.
No More Rental Cars
Uber and Lyft are ridesharing services, which is like taking a taxi without the privacy. You can cheapen your rate with the “shared ride” experience – if another passenger is going your way the driver will pick them up and you receive a 30-60% discount. It’s a good deal if you don’t mind strangers, and apparently a good number of people don’t: within two months, 1/3 of Lyft users were sharing their rides with unfamiliar people for the discount. Renting a car for a week of vacation can add strain to your budget, and it’s not practical if you’re not going to be driving every day. And it makes getting around a new city or a ride to the airport even easier. You don’t have to ask a friend to take you to the airport at 5am because you can just call Lyft, which is available in most major cities like Orlando, San Antonio, San Francisco, Nashville, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Minneapolis, and Washington DC.
Uber and Lyft each have phone apps that easily allow you to request a ride, and automatically takes the fare from the credit card you set to your account. Lyft adds a layer of safety with background and DMV checks on its drivers, and by allowing passengers to track their driver’s route and ETA with the app. With Lyft, the drivers and passengers rate each other after the experience. If you ever rate a driver 3 stars or less, you won’t be matched up with them again. Plus you can order Lyft Plus for a car which will hold up to six passengers and has room for luggage.
Uber is available in many US cities, including Orlando, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Myrtle Beach, and St. Louis. The prices vary for each city. For example, in Orlando you would have a base fare of $1.25, plus $0.13 added on for every minute and $1.20 added for every mile according to Uber’s website. Those figures may go slightly up in Las Vegas, and they would still be competitive with taxi rates. But lately it seems Uber has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Like Lyft, Uber also claims to provide background checks on its drivers, although earlier this year one Uber driver was accused of assault, after which it was revealed he had a criminal record. One Uber exec apologized for making comments suggesting the company hire private investigators probe into the lives of journalists who critique the ride-sharing service. In that case you best bet may be Lyft or Zimride, a site that allows you to make a profile and catch rides from other users making the same trip.
Bike sharing is growing all over the country – Chicago has its blue Divvy bikes, while St. Louis is currently doing a study through the end of the year to see if their citizens would utilize a shared biking service. Bike sharing is an up-and-coming public transportation system that’s perfect for the traveler who can’t bring their bike everywhere. Bicycling makes exploring a new city fun, and you won’t have to worry about not knowing where to park the car, or paying for parking. It’s a healthy, convenient way to get about and the bike even comes with a basket you can throw your purse or bag in while you ride.
Different cities have different companies – for example, San Antonio has B-Cycle. Anyone can buy membership online or at a B-station in San Antonio, where they can then choose a bike and ride it wherever they have to go. When you’re done, you return it to the closest B-station for someone else to use later. Membership passes can be for 24-hours, a week, or a year depending on your need. Bike rental shops are good for going on long, leisurely bike rides with scenery to match, but if you need to get from point A to point B, bike sharing is the way to go.
B-cycle is also available in Austin, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Des Moines, and more. The number of bikes and stations vary per city. Austin has over 40 bike stations downtown and promotes their $8 day passes to tourists and fans of the Longhorns who may want to ride down and tailgate before the football game. You won’t have to worry about parking fees or finding a spot, since B-cycle offers unlimited parking for their red bikes at the stadium. The company even guarantees that bikes will be available after the game so you aren’t left stranded. An Austin B-cycle pass is $25 for a week, plus some additional fees for longer rides. The B-cycle app available for download on your iPhone or Android, so you always know if there’s available bikes and where the nearest station is.