Cruising Along is an ongoing weekly blog series by Bianca Sewake examining Hawai‘i’s alternative modes of transportation.
While scrolling through Facebook two years ago in Seattle, a pink mustache popped up on my laptop screen—an advertisement from the app-based rideshare Lyft that offers the same service cabs do, but boasted lower ride fares, payment convenience, and friendly drivers.
Shortly after that, I decided to try Lyft. To my happy surprise, my experience was as advertised. Later I tried Uber, similar to Lyft but a whole different experience. With no car in Seattle, Lyft and Uber became two more options on days when I had appointments and didn’t want to worry whether the bus would arrive on time, after a long day shopping downtown, getting home safely at night, or on days when I just needed a ride somewhere. This service made sense in a bigger city like Seattle and so it wasn’t uncommon to see the Lyft and Uber cars around.
When I received the email updates that Lyft and Uber were arriving in Honolulu, however, I wondered, was it really necessary? Would people use it? Would it clog up traffic even more? I turned to Twitter and searched #LyftHonolulu and #UberHonolulu, and people seemed to like it. I had to test it out for myself and see how it compared to my experiences in Seattle.
But first, for those who are still new to all of this, here’s how it works:
1. Download the app to your smart phone 2. Sign in with Facebook, which automatically sets up your profile (name and profile photo, which helps drivers identify customers. Plus you can opt to NOT post anything on your Facebook wall), or sign up with email and then manually enter your picture and name. 3. Input phone number (so your driver can contact you if necessary when getting a ride) and credit card information (all payments are handled electronically). 4. With the location turned on for these apps, a map will pop up, pegging your location and showing in real time the amount of cars that are nearby (or far away). 5. To request a ride, make sure your location is pinned correctly and simply hit the “Request” button. Soon, your driver will be the only car icon on your map. Their name with a headshot and photo of their car will appear on your screen as well, with an estimated time of arrival. 6. After your ride, open the app to rate your driver (your driver also rates you) and confirm payment in the app. Otherwise, it will automatically be transacted after 24 hours. Receipts are emailed right after.
Time of Day: Morning
Cost: $19 (Chinatown to Kaimukī)
When I decided to get a ride to run an errand, I was surprised that there was a ride available because prior to this, Lyft seemed elusive. Back in June, when it first arrived, I was curious to see how many drivers were around, but when I would open my app, I would be met with the note “BUSY,” meaning no rides were available. I would try and try again just to see what time drivers would be available, and they were often at off times, when I first woke up or when I was sitting down at dinner—times I didn’t want or need a ride.
Like a few other rides I caught in Seattle, I was met with the signature friendly fist bump upon entering a clean and well-kept car, with the A/C cooling me off on a hot day. My driver was friendly, talking story with me—another interesting one for the books. She carefully made her way through some traffic, all while making sure I was comfortable, and dropped me off at my location.
Bonus: Depending on the driver, there’s often perks, such as being offered snacks or bottled water for my commute. A lot of my drivers have chargers so I can charge my phone. It’s also the service that I feel most comfortable playing my music (since some offer me that option).
Time of Day: Afternoon
Cost: $14.90 (Kaimukī to Chinatown)
While enjoying a nice, hot bowl of pho in Kaimukī for a solo lunch, it dawned on me that perhaps it would be difficult getting a ride with UberX to downtown. The announcement was for “Uber in Honolulu,” after all. Opening the app, my guess was correct. Uber has different levels of ride experience, and UberX is the newest addition to Honolulu (and the one most affordable and comparable to Lyft—the one I refer to when talking about Uber). So although Uber Taxi and Uber Black Car were in my area, it took a while for UberX to become available.
No fist bumps with this ride share. Not that it’s an indicator of a less friendly atmosphere. It was welcomed warmly, and I entered another clean, well-kept, air-conditioned car. Had I preferred windows down, that was an option—whatever made me feel more comfortable. Sometimes I enjoy talking, but other times, it’s nice to just be a passenger and sit in a comfortable silence and stare out the window at a blurred landscape passing me by.
Bonus: Friends can tag along with both Lyft and Uber and it does not affect the price. However, if you want to evenly split the bill with your friends, Uber makes it possible to do that in the app as long as your friends also have the app on their phone.