I was visiting Svetlana in Los Angeles over the weekend and needed to run a few errands while she was at work. Given Los Angeles doesn’t really have an efficient public transportation system and I didn’t , I took her advice and gave Lyft a try. Lyft is a driving network that lets people bring their own cars and charge fares to give others rides. It works through an app on the smartphone and you just press a button to request a ride and a driver shows up. It’s connected to your credit card and just automatically pays when the ride is over. Over the course of the day, I had four different Lyft rides and kind of got to know the ins and outs of how it works and what can go wrong. Here’s my story:
My first stop was the DMV just two miles away. I went outside and requested a ride and got confirmation I’d be picked up within a few minutes. That was pretty easy, I thought. To make things simpler, they show you a picture of the driver, his name and what the car looks like. Maestro would be taking me to the DMV and, once he arrived, I got a text saying my driver is here. I got in the back. He was exceedingly friendly, welcomed me to my first Lyft experience and we joked about New York vs. LA. We were at the DMV in about 10 minutes and the ride just cost $5. I tipped $2 and gave him a rating of 5 stars.
As I was waiting for my DMV appointment, I did a little bit of reading up on Lyft. Apparently, the Lyft culture is meant to be more relaxed and friendly. You should think of the Lyft driver as “your friend with a car” and it’s typical to sit in the front and chat with the driver. It’s really like your friend dropping you off somewhere. On the one hand, it’s a bit unusual for me to sit in the front with people I don’t know. But on the other hand, if it’s meant to be a friendly culture, I don’t want to sit in the back and give the impression I think the driver works for me. I figured I may as well act like we’re friends and sit in the front.
Next, I needed to go to the nail place, which was also just two miles away. When I requested a ride, nothing came back after a few minutes and the app said “It’s busy out there! Try again later.” It was 10 am at this point and I saw on the app that this was its “prime time” and I can use prime time pricing to pay double. Hey, it is what it is, so I sent out a “prime time” request. I got picked up by a friendly local, again very funny and very talkative. The fare was $10, which is about what I expected given by ride to the DMV cost $5.
After the nail place, I needed to go see Svetlana’s tailor. He wasn’t far either. Once I made my request, it was accepted and my driver would be arriving within 5 minutes. But when I got the text my driver has arrived, he was nowhere to be seen. After a few minutes, he called me and we realized he was looking for me on the wrong street. I mistakenly assumed the Lyft mapping app is very accurate, but apparently the address it assigns to where you are at the time isn’t always the correct one. So that’s important to check. It took him a few minutes to find me and we were on the way. I expected the ride to be about $5 as it wasn’t prime time pricing, but I did notice afterward it was $10. I assume what happened was that the ride officially “started” when the text was sent out and the time he took to find me counted into the price. That is kind of annoying, but on the other hand, it was my fault he got the wrong address. I’ll just have to watch out next time.
The tailor only took a few minutes and, at this point, I was less than a mile from the local Target. I strolled over there, stopping by a grocery store on the way, and enjoyed the nice sunny day as I walked. When it was time to go home, I pulled out the Lyft app again and was picked up by Phu a few minutes later. He was also very friendly and asked what my plans for the weekend were. I said I’m visiting from New York and plan to just hang out, go to the beach and so on. He told me he’s going out for dim sum that weekend and he’s very excited about it as it’s been a while since he’s had it and has been craving it for a while. Very cute. Again, the ride cost $5.
Overall, I had quite a good experience using Lyft in Los Angeles. It was simple and convenient where I spent $30 total to run all my errands that day. I don’t think I could have done better. The drivers were all very nice and extremely friendly and the cars were all quite clean. I don’t know if I remembered to rate all the drivers, but the ones I did, I gave five stars and I had no complaints about any of them. So I’m happy with Lyft. To be fair, however, this is only my impression of my Lyft experience specifically in Los Angeles, not the countrywide network. Each of these services – Uber, taxis, Lyft has a different personality in each city. In New York, Lyft hasn’t really taken off and UberX is more expensive than taxis, which are usually much faster to catch anyway as they’re everywhere. So I won’t really be using Lyft or Uber in New York since I’m usually in a hurry and taxis work very well for me here. In Los Angeles, however, taxis are not on the street and you have to call one to go somewhere. So Lyft works well. I’ll likely be using Lyft when I am in Phoenix later this year.
Has anyone else tried Lyft? How was your experience?