Business

How Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are saving Bay Area commuters during a major public transit strike

A truck drives by a BART train on the highway.

Above: A truck drives by a BART train on the highway.

Image Credit: Rococohobo/Flickr

Many Bay Area commuters are stranded today, attempting to board overly packed buses and drive on parking lots — excuse me, highways — due to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike. Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar believe they help stranded riders.

Alternative transportation methods have been criticized and fined by various cities including San Francisco and New York for not respecting safety regulations or following laws that apply to cabs in the area. But days like today may show just how much they’re needed.

“This strike is an important illustration of why more transportation options – particularly low-cost options like uberX– are important for consumers, businesses and cities,” said Uber general manager Ilya Abyzov in an emailed statement. “It means that in the event of a strike, residents and visitors can rely on Uber to commute to work and get around the Bay Area without breaking the bank.”

BART carries over 400,000 people every day. For those without cars, this means a day of scrambling to get to work, meetings, events, or, if you’re lucky, a work-from-home day. Alternative transportation and rideshare companies Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber all say they have done extra outreach over the weekend to their driver-base to inform people of an alternative to jam-packed public transit or driving their own car.

Sidecar lets customers enter their destination and origin of pick up on an app, which drivers can see and cater to at their convenience. The company says that it’s adding extra incentives to get more drivers out on the road. The company only accepts donations as opposed to a metered payment system. These donations are usually split, with Sidecar taking 20 percent, but today Sidecar is letting drivers keep all the donations. The company is also providing more training this week to anyone who wants to sign up as a Sidecar driver.

Lyft, with those crazy pink mustachioed cars you may see driving around, told us it is doing something similar and letting all of its drivers keep 100 percent of the donations they receive.

Of course, the three seem to be focusing on getting more drivers on the road than on attracting more customers, and that’s likely because the customers are flocking to them.

“We have seen a very large increase in ride requests,” a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an e-mail. “We have given 40 percent more rides this Monday morning than we normally do — especially from the East Bay — and we have seen a 50 percent increase in Sidecar drivers who are signed on and ready to rideshare this morning as of 9:30 a.m.”

Uber, which you use to order and pay for black towncars and taxis through an app, says it has also seen an uptick in use this morning.


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