Get Moving With Our Insider's Guide to Lyft and Uber
Downloading the app is just the beginning. A real-life ridesharing driver shares some insider tips for making the most of the ’Burgh’s new car services.
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If you have ever found yourself waiting 60 or 90 minutes for a taxi in Pittsburgh — or requested a cab that never came — you may be interested in trying out Uber or Lyft the next time you hit the town.
I began driving for Lyft in August, and I have been a satisfied customer of both services when using them in Los Angeles.
Apps for Uber and Lyft are available on iPhone and Android devices. The apps are remarkably simple to use, but I always get questions from my new passengers about how to best use the services. Now that the PUC is expected to make both fully legal in Pennsylvania, now is a good time to learn how to be a Lyft and Uber power user.
Get your first ride free — and text your friends for more free rides.
Both Lyft and Uber encourage you to try them out for free. Use the code APPSTORE on the Lyft “Payments” screen to get your first ride free (up to $25); on Uber, use that code on the “Promotions” screen for $10 off your first ride.
But wait — like every good infomercial — there’s more! Once you start riding, find your personal promo code within the app and share it with friends who have not yet used a ridesharing service. They’ll get their first ride free, and you’ll get additional free rides — up to $30 per ride on Uber and $25 per ride on Lyft.
Don’t mess with the map. Just tap REQUEST.
The apps use your phone’s GPS to pinpoint your exact location. All you have to do hit REQUEST and satellites will do their 21st-century magic to send a car to that spot.
So unless you need a car in a different spot than your current location, don’t fiddle around moving the map on your screen. Doing so changes the app’s “pinpoint” and could send a car to the wrong spot. I once got a late-night request from a man who put the pin in the middle of the Allegheny River. Because I don’t drive a Just Ducky Tours boat, I called him to make sure he was on land. He was, of course, just in Lawrenceville (and drunk).
Know the fares (and when they go up).
Lyft and Uber both advertise their rides as cheaper than a taxi, and that is true for most hours of the day. Most Uber and Lyft cars can seat four people; Lyft Plus vehicles seat six. Here’s the basic breakdown:
|Uber||Lyft||Lyft Plus||Yellow Cab|
|Per Mile Fee||$1.25||$1.13||$1.69||$1.75 first 20 miles;
|Per Minute Fee||$0.30||$0.27||$0.41||$0.25|
Here’s the rub — and it could be costly. Both Uber and Lyft increase fares during times when users are requesting more rides. I once took a couple from their house in Beechview to the airport (normally a $28 fare) that cost $83 because of this demand-level pricing.
Uber’s “surge pricing” and Lyft's “Prime Time” prices usually go into effect late in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays, or when overcast weather turns into rain. Fares can increase from an extra 25 percent all the way to three times the normal rate.
The apps will warn you about price multipliers when you hit REQUEST, so you won't get sticker shock when you reach your destination. And if you request a ride by accident? Make sure to cancel within five minutes, or you’ll get hit with the cancelation fee.
Keep your body fluids in your body.
We don’t have to tell you that you shouldn’t throw up in any vehicle. But that is especially true in someone else’s car. Unlike some other cities, Uber and Lyft are technically “ridesharing” services in Pittsburgh, which means every car is owned by the driver who is taking you — so treat it like you would treat a friend’s car.
Both services will also charge you if you, uh, toss your cookies in a vehicle (for Uber it can be $200 or more). So be careful — your driver may not have an air-sickness bag in the underseat compartment.
Don’t hate — communicate!
As any marriage expert will tell you, communication is key to any relationship — and that includes the 20-minute relationship you share with your Uber or Lyft driver.
If you need to give your driver special instructions about where to park or how to open a locked gate, give him or her a call. You and the driver both have dummy numbers, so we as drivers never retain your phone number. Also, upload a photo of yourself to your Lyft/Uber account (even a selfie); it helps us make sure we are picking up the right people.
Another way to help is to enter your destination into the app before arrival. I’ll always plug in the address to Google Maps and use turn-by-turn directions, but if you have a specific route you like, go ahead and tell your driver.
Need a conversation topic with your drivers? Ask about the hot bars, restaurants and nightclubs they are often picking young folks up from. Ask about the drunkest person they have ever picked up from the South Side. Believe me, we have stories.
Know your way around the end-of-ride rating system.
It may seem odd, but you should give your driver five stars if the ride met your expectations; a three-star rating is considered poor. Basically, giving five stars to good drivers keeps them in good standing with the ride-sharing company.
But if the ride didn’t meet your standards? Give a lower rating. Uber and Lyft will ask for feedback about what could have made it better. Did you get a terrible driver with a filthy car? Give the driver one or two stars. The app will ensure you never re-match with that stinky driver.
Then again, I hope you never get a stinky driver! I have only had good experiences with my drivers and passengers. And hey, maybe you’ll see me in the driver’s seat on your next trip. The pink mustache (last tip: that means Lyft, not Uber) is tough to hide.