Friday, December 18, 2015

Lyft-ing It

Seattle is seeing loads of people move in. Downtown and the freeways are crazy crowded. Traffic jams start at 4.30pm and last all the way till 7.30pm! Dunno how much of it is influenced by Amazon's new headquarters and campus at South Lake Union. What used to be a boring industrial area filled with warehouses now sees hip pubs and restaurants mushroom.

We shift dinner timings accordingly so as not to get into a crazy jam if we're commuting between Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond, Ballard, and Seattle. When we stay downtown and want to head up to Capitol Hill for dinner, even to East Madison, we walk. It's like...2.4km, just 25 minutes if you take a slow stroll. If you take a car and sit in a jam, it could take 30 minutes.

The newspapers have been merrily discussing all week about how I-405 tolls are going to hit USD10 for each pass. Drivers are fuming because at the recent USD9.35 or so, the tolls are now pegged far above the predicted USD4 average. So if drivers who are willing to bear that price per pass, you could get from Bellevue to Lynwood in 25 minutes instead of the usual one hour. Eeeps.

I've been getting around King County mainly via Lyft on this trip. No huge complaints navigating the app, and they seem to accept my international credit card.  uberX still works fine, but as a new user to Lyft, it has given me USD10 credit for five trips in Seattle, as well as a 30% discount off each subsequent trip. It would be a good basis for comparison. The City Council just voted to permit Seattle contract drivers to unionize. (See this NYT's article on this.)

uberX in Singapore is hugely disappointing once driver-take-up rate increased (drivers can't read maps and are terrible at estimating arrival times), and especially useless when ComfortDelgro upped their app game to include cashless payment, and has recently given me nice drivers who definitely know their roads and don't give me crap for nothing. The attitude of the uberX drivers is pushing me to use uberExec which seems to give me more polite drivers with a better knowledge of roads. That comes with a price tag of at least SGD25 each trip. Why would I do that on a daily basis of four to six trips?

I didn't stop using Lyft after the 'subsidized/free' trips in Seattle. Continued to give it some business. Generally, Lyft is more expensive than uberX by say USD3-5 for each trip. Its surge pricing can hit 75% to 100%, making the usual USD12 trip hit USD21 at say, 9.30pm. Lyft is still trying garner market share, and treats their drivers better (who also drive for uberX), including the tip option for riders. I tipped many of the drivers. They're friendly when they didn't have to be, they could read my moods and of course, efficient!

Yes, the safety issue. I feel fine here for now. When taking rides (even in Singapore), I rarely tell drivers I'm heading home or whatever. It's always just 'visiting friends'. There's a reason why I wear flats and jeans all the time. Downtown, scams aplenty. Ran into a few being carried out on unsuspecting tourists. Typical of big cities. The decades-old "Hey bro, let me give you a CD/magazine/keychain/whatever", then when you accept, another bunch of people stop you a few meters down the road and ask you for USD20.

I've seen tourists accosted at each traffic light by people asking for spare change. In three years, the homeless on the streets have increased. More strange gatherings at street corners. They don't just politely ask now, they come up right to my face, invading my six-inches radius of comfort zone and often, they reach out a hand to grab my wrist. WTF is up with that? At every downtown junction. I try not to stop and cross at whichever lights permitting. Walking around downtown is slightly less fun now, and at every opportunity, I get out.


Anonymous said...

I would love Seattle more if public transport and walkability was better. We got caught in a 40min jam before from University Town to downtown. Some say the buses are pretty good but I haven't tried....

Many UberX drivers are also Lyft drivers now. Service is still ok here in Chicago but cleanliness is getting less consistent. Still better than the gross cab companies here though.

imp said...

The buses work all right- the bus lanes are free for them. Buses are still emptier than the roads that are chockfull of cars. We usually walk though, so didn't bother to hop on the buses which are really quite convenient as it takes you from downtown to many suburbs, but it can extend traveling time because of the various stops. Mostly we walk to another venue a few streets away from the crazy 1st and 2nd avenue where it's easier to get a ride out elsewhere. But we mainly hang outside of downtown, so slightly less miffed with the traffic.