Cruising Along is an ongoing weekly blog series by Bianca Sewake examining Hawai‘i’s alternative modes of transportation.
Image: Flickr/Daniel O’Niel
Despite Lyft and Uber’s continued national presence, both have received backlash. For one, there are still questions and foggy perceptions surrounding the legitimacy and safety of these rideshare services—in particular, the topic of those behind the wheel. Also, cab companies around the world have been in uproar, saying that rideshares are causing a drop in the number of cab customers, while not having to pay the same taxes or go through the same approval processes.
In this segment of Cruising Along, I talked with two drivers and discussed why they decided to sign up, what the requirements were, and why they’ll continue to drive despite some of the heat Lyft and Uber have been facing.
MEET BOBBIE Driver for Lyft
Originally from Arkansas, Bobbie has moved around a lot and has previously lived in Hawai‘i. She decided to move back to the islands four years ago with her granddaughter, working long hours as a respiratory therapist at Kaiser. “I was let go, so we had to go out and start finding another job,” she said. After getting a tip from a friend about the opportunity Lyft provided, Bobbie decided to apply to be a driver.
“I met with a mentor and he explained everything about Lyft,” Bobbie said. “[The car] has to be 2000 and newer. Everything has to work on it, of course. … We had to wait for a background check and mine took about 10 days because I have lived outside of Hawai‘i and other places. But after that, I got a text and an email stating I was good to go and I could go out there and start driving any time. So I did.”
Bobbie enjoys meeting new people and in turn, learning about more places around O‘ahu while picking up and dropping off her passengers. She also likes that she is able to make her own schedule, which allows her to spend more time with her granddaughter. And she has found the compensation to be just as good as that of her old job. Her first week with Lyft, working just four days of the week, she made just as much as she did working her previous job.
Because ridesharing allows multiple riders in one car, Bobbie believes that rideshares could be part of the answer to alleviating traffic in Hawai‘i. Plus, she believes riders will take advantage of ridesharing not only to avoid the headache of traffic, but also because it prevents wear and tear on the rider’s vehicle.
As for her response to enraged cab companies, Bobbie feels that there’s room in the market to accommodate both, and noted the company’s value of safety. “We’re careful when it comes to our driving,” she said. “We try to pay attention more versus the few cab rides I’ve had that just cut through the traffic, determined to get into that little slot.”
MEET STANTON Driver for UberX
“For people that are looking for an inner-city commute, I think this is a good solution or alternative,” said Stanton. “I just thought I’d try it out and it’s working out for me. It matches my personality type. I’m outdoorsy. I like to talk to people. I like to meet new people and show them around, give them information,” he said.
Prior to becoming a driver for UberX (the most affordable and driver-accessible of Uber’s three rideshare options—the others involve fancier vehicles and commercial licenses or certifications), Stanton went through a lengthy process that included a background check and credit check, a vehicle inspection, and sending in copies of his registration, driver’s license, and photos of his car.
“I’ve picked up elderly people who needed a ride from the hospital. I’ve also picked up college students. I’ve picked up tourists, and I’ve helped military people get back to base,” he said. “I’ve helped people that needed a ride when they couldn’t get a ride any other way. And I think Uber comes in handy, not just for inner-city commute, but when your friends are busy and you need a ride to the airport or you need to get somewhere.”
Like Bobbie, Stanton enjoys the flexibility of his job—the ability to log off and take care of pressing errands right away or grab lunch and have time to clean up before going back online.
In response to the controversy with cab companies, Stanton feels that the companies shouldn’t be too worried. “It’s a select market that we have because you have to be registered with Uber,” Stanton said. “You have to have your credit card on file, your information on file. It’s not some random person you see on the side of the road, but that is what cabbies have an advantage of. They can just pick up someone that lifts up their hand on the side of the road. We can’t do that.”
A note on safety:
What I like about Lyft and Uber is that it ensures the safety of both the driver and the passenger by holding both accountable for their actions and manners. At the end of each ride, both the passenger and rider are able to rate each other with one to five stars. The passenger does not see their ratings—only drivers will when a ride is requested from the passenger. And the drivers get anonymous printouts of their ratings so they know what they can improve on. Passengers are also able to see the driver’s ratings once they request a ride.
It’s true that anyone can sign up to become a driver and that for Lyft and UberX, the driver’s personal vehicles are being used. However, there are requirements and a process in order to become one. In my two—going on three—years using Lyft and Uber, I have found that many of my drivers are just regular people who have interesting stories to tell about how they ended up as drivers—regular people who, like any other job, have met requirements to hold positions that require my trust in their service.