Some who know me well, know I like to do “experiments” and experience things a bit out of the ordinary. For instance, since it has become mainstream to have a smartphone, I went almost all summer with a “dumb” phone — no camera, no apps. It was both liberating and occasionally frustrating. I have since come to my senses and am again using a smartphone.
As part of another experiment, this past Friday, September 11, 2015, I was approved to become a Lyft driver. If you are not familiar with Lyft, it is very similar to Uber, but a bit more casual and IMO, fun. If you do not know what Uber is, when even my mother knows what it is, then I can only assume you are not from this Earth, in which case, this post will be meaningless. This past summer, all around good guy Earl Stewart of Earl Stewart Toyota gave me the idea, as he had become an Uber driver. As well, I have written extensively about the regulations facing ride share tech companies like Lyft and Uber for some time, even including a couple of posts here on this blog. So, I thought I would immerse myself in this new age of sharing rides which has the taxi companies all up in a huff. And just to qualm any fears, I did not drive around town with a large pink mustache attached to the grill of my BMW.
Uber and Lyft drivers come from all walks of life, some are retired, some are millionaires looking for interesting experiences, some are young people trying to get by and some are your typical “soccer moms” who are looking to earn a little extra money for the family. Heck, even politicians have become Uber drivers.
I started off early Saturday morning and my Lyft ride was this person’s first Lyft – so we already had something in common since he was my first Lyft. What a great guy — interesting and fun. I picked him up on A1A as he was leaving his girlfriend’s place and needed a Lyft to his office. We had a great conversation on the ride to West Palm Beach. My next Lyft was for a great young guy, in college for sports medicine and aspring to become a sports doctor and open a sports management company in the future. He was leaving an overnight shift and needed a Lyft home — super interesting guy.Another was taking a young guy to work in Boynton Beach who had come to Florida by way of San Diego following a girl. According to him, it was a big mistake as he was now “stuck” in South Florida without the girl and without his prior job, which he loved — working on a sports fishing boat. My last Lyft of the day (I was only on the driver platform for two hours) was driving a nice young lady to her work in the West Palm Beach area.
All and all, though I was only out two hours, I derived this could be a good way for someone needing some extra cash, or someone to do this full time. I have calculated I would net $13 per hour after car expenses, which is more than many low-wage Palm Beachers make. If they had a quality car, like one from Earl Stewart Toyota (shameless plug, even though I have no financial connection to the company), they could do alright. Admittingly, I did not drive during the reportedly more lucrative times (at night during the weekends and special events) so the $ per hour number could rise substantially if drivers drove during those times. One friend said he made over $1,000 driving on a recent Friday and Saturday night.
I went out Sunday, intermittingly — in the morning for a time, mid-day, and for an hour later in the afternoon. I had six Lyfts which were mostly people going to or from work and one Lyft was from a group of people leaving the beach. I ended the weekend doing ten Lyfts and getting a 5 out of 5 rating from those who rode with me.
What I discovered in this admittingly limited window into the ridesharing world, is that most people using Lyft (and I assume all ridesharing companies) are hardworking, honest people just looking to get ahead in this world. It was inspiring, frankly.
I do not know how much more Lyfting I will do, but overall it was fun and interesting. As you can also guess, I feel the regulation stranglehold our elected officials are trying to use to ruin the future of transportation is appalling. Those calling for more regulation are doing so at the behest of the old, traditional cab companies, which according to everyone I’ve asked, offer far worse service than either Lyft or Uber. Rather than scale up their businesses, they are attempting to use the strong arm of the government to shut down their competition. Commissioners say they are doing it in the name of “safety” but NOT ONE person has come forward to offer ANY evidence Lyft or Uber are any less safe than traditional taxi companies and there is even mounting evidence that companies like Lyft and Uber are making things SAFER on the roads. Heck, even MAAD has come out in support of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Bureaucrats have temporarily succeeded in beating down the high-tech newcomers in Broward County where Lyft and Uber are no longer permitted by the county government to pick up rides and the county is far worse off for doing so. Fortunately, Broward County Commissioners are meeting this month to fix what they screwed up due to high demand from citizens who are fans of both Uber and Lyft.
BROWARD UPDATE: Since this blog post, Lyft and Uber are legally back in Broward County with the added ability to pick up and drop off and the Fort Lauderdale Airport and the cruise port.
GENERAL UPDATE: I will be doing another Lyft experiment the week of November 9, 2015, driving for 40+ hours to see what it is like full-time. What can I make financially? Will I continue to enjoy it or will it seem more like a job? Find out the following week when I post here on my blog. Follow this blog to find out!