Road testing Yellow Cab, Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh
|By Kim Lyons, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
<chron>July 13--The traditional
We decided to try to challenge some of the long-held assumptions about what it's like navigating the region in someone else's car. Is it possible to get a ride on the
Our band of reporters took to the streets to try to answer some of these questions. One waited in
While mileage and experiences varied, PG riders encountered many twists and turns in the road -- everything from no-show taxis, to technology glitches, to drivers who didn'?t know where they were going.
After a week with seven travelers riding around the area, comparing the region's largest cab company, Yellow Cab, Lyft and Uber, here's what we found:
Driving factor: Doesn't always come when called, so be prepared to wait
The most frequent complaint about Yellow Cab, which has more than 300 taxis, is that riders wait for drivers who never arrive. An attempt to get a Yellow Cab in the
The Yellow Cab drivers who did show up took a long time to arrive. And two drivers asked the riders whether they could pay with cash instead of a credit card. While the drivers all had a good sense of direction, one reporter waited twice as long as expected because a dispatcher sent her taxi to the wrong place. Instead of going to Park House on the
Getting through to dispatch wasn't always easy on the first try. Reporter
Our airport traveler said his taxi took him from
When we requested a taxi for a trip from
Then, there was the
Here'??s a map illustrating the results of the Yellow Cab rides.
(Maps designed by
Driving factor: Usually gets you there, but needs directions
Lyft bills itself as "your friend with a car" and encourages riders to sit up front and fist-bump with the driver. Worth noting is that it requires you connect with its app using a
Of the three services we surveyed, Lyft has the smallest local coverage area, stretching as far north as
And our experience found Lyft drivers to be the most directionally challenged. While most relied heavily on their GPS devices, our
"At first, she used navigation to help her find my apartment. Then, about halfway through the trip, she decided to turn off the navigational system and said she knew a better way," said
What surprised us most was that the majority of the Lyft vehicles did not have the company's signature pink mustache on the front. One said it was to avoid drawing attention, another said she had been driving only a week and had not received it yet, and another said she was told not to display it. Since several of the drivers said they also drive for Uber, it would make sense to keep their cars looking as generic as possible. But many Lyft and Uber drivers have been wary of being spotted after 22 were cited by a PUC enforcement officer earlier this year (a 23rd driver had the charges dismissed).
Along with the pink mustache, Lyft's brand is positioned as a less corporate alternative to Uber. Our riders found many offered water, gum or candy; there's even one Pittsburgh Lyft car decked out in a Hello Kitty motif. And varying from taxis and Uber, Lyft passengers should be prepared to sit in the front seat, and be greeted by a fist-bump from drivers.
The atmosphere didn't always feel as genuine as intended, however.
"Driver was very friendly but in a forced, awkward way -- asked me to sit in the front seat and then proceeded to fist-bump me when I got in," said
And we noticed the cost of the Lyft rides seemed to vary the most. When we sent reporter
Here'??s a map illustrating the results of the Lyft rides.
Driving factor: A mostly smooth ride, but some tech problems
Uber Technologies was valued in June at around
Uber bills itself as a technology company that happens to provide transportation. But at least one of our reporters wasn't able to get its technology to work, leaving her unable to connect with a driver.
Our Uber riders all mentioned they had difficulty distinguishing the cars when they arrived.
"It was hard to detect which car it was," said
But of our successful Uber rides, all arrived within the time frame estimated, and the drivers knew where they were going with little GPS assistance.
And, PG test riders did not encounter Uber's "surge pricing" -- in which cost of the ride rises in periods of high demand -- during any of the trips, which can result in an estimated fare being more than double its normal amount.
Here's a map illustrating the Uber rides.
Even though they face proposed daily fines of
Yellow Cab has decided to introduce a ride-share app of its own, tentatively called Yellow X, which is expected to launch soon.
The PUC is expected to decide on Uber's application for emergency service sometime this week. And when lawmakers return to
Whether ride shares will be able to keep on the straight and narrow in
Reporting for this story was contributed by
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