There was some serious budgeting for the trip to San Diego with YA. First off, the trip would not have been possible at all except for free airline tickets that I won last summer as well as all the award points that I’ve saved up at work over the past few years (they paid for the hotel and the zoo/safari park). That left us with food and transportation.
We had an Excel spreadsheet for all of this and the transportation was the most challenging. While the airport, the zoo and Balboa Park are all fairly closely clustered, the safari park was quite a distance. Plus we were working with a limited selection of hotels due to the budget (I only had so many award points). I initially just wanted to rent a car, but that got expensive fast with overnight parking as well as parking at many of the attractions we wanted to visit. We used a website we found for approximating taxis in San Diego – not much better of a price point.
YA suggested we should just use Uber/Lyft like she did on her last trip and the initial research showed quite a bit of savings over rental cars and taxis. But I was hesitant. I’ve never used Uber or Lyft and it made me really nervous. YA said she would take care of it all.
The first morning, the Lyft driver showed up at our house 10 minutes after she set it up. Perfect. Since that was the transfer I was the most nervous about, I could relax. Uber/Lyft are just big software applications that hook drivers up with passengers. More than once during the trip, we had a driver change while we were waiting; at the zoo the driver changed twice after we set up the initial request, which ended up getting up back to the hotel sooner than we had anticipated. After doing a bit of research I figured out why it’s cheaper and why taxi associations are up in arms. Uber/Lyft drivers are not employees – they are individual contractors and the software just puts them together with folks who want a ride. No fleets of cars to maintain, no huge workforce to deal with employee issues, insurance, etc. (I did this research because the day before we were to come home Uber and Lyft both announced they were going to stop service in California (that night!) due to a new law that the state has passed concerning the employee status of drivers. Luckily within a couple of hours there was a stay granted so that Uber/Lyft can continue challenging the new law, so we were still able to arrange a transfer to the airport the next morning.
Really the only problem that I found was that both Uber and Lyft driver rely completely on GPS, unlike taxi drivers who actually do a lot of training and testing before getting their licenses. So if the GPS is off, then the ride is off. On our first full day, we headed up to Escondido to the Safari Park. It’s a long haul, about 40 minutes and YA had her phone open to the Lyft app the entire time so we could track where we were along the route (apparently this is “how it’s done”). As we approached the main entrance to the park, there was a clear turn off and a huge sign but our driver went right by it and turned left at the next driveway, which was exactly what GPS was telling him to do. Unfortunately this was some sort of service entrance with a security gate; it took YA a couple of minutes to convince the driver to go back to the first entrance to the park. Luckily, you pay upfront for your trip, not by the miles or the time you are actually in the car, so this kind of thing doesn’t jack up your price.
So every single one of our transfers was done by Lyft. YA says she likes Lyft better than Uber but she can’t articulate why. It doesn’t seem like the two companies can be that different; several of our drivers had both Lyft and Uber stickers on their windshields. But whatever the difference, it worked out quite well for us, saved us money and I survived using a new technology. Of course, we’ll see how it goes if I ever had to set up a Lyft on my own!
Any new technology that you’ve survived recently? Or that is driving you crazy?