They're already available in hundreds of cities across the U.S. And they're expected to soon be in Rochester. We're talking about transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. So how do they work?
I downloaded the Lyft app from the iTunes store
and tried it for myself in downtown St. Paul. When I opened the app, all I had to do was click on Set Pickup (the app already knew my location), enter the destination of my trip (in this case, the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis), hit Request, and the app automatically sent me the closest driver.
My driver was Kelly Hartnett, who has been driving for Lyft since 2013. I asked him what first-timers can expect when using Lyft.
"They can expect a very, very, very fast service," Hartnett said. "If you don't have your vehicle, or if you can't drive your car at the moment, it's definitely the fastest service that is offered."
When asked about how busy being a Lyft driver can be, Hartnett responded, "It really depends. I usually just drive during rush hour and occasionally a weekend morning or an event. I average between two and three rides an hour during those times."
Hartnett said he usually makes about 80 percent of the price of the ride. So if he gives a $10 ride, he can expect to make about $8.
But Hartnett said being a Lyft driver is about more than just the money.
"I made a few personal friends so far, some business connections, job interviews. But at the same time, I kind of use it to decompress after I get off from my other job," he said.
After a trip ends, the customer can use the Lyft app to pay the fare, tip the driver, rate the driver (up to five stars), and leave a message.
Hartnett said those who cause disturbances (including drivers and customers) can be permanently banned from using Lyft.
Last week, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved its transportation network company ordinance, which gives the green light for companies like Lyft and Uber.
Although Uber has expressed strong interest in establishing a presence in Rochester, the company has not applied for a license as of Monday.
Meanwhile, Lyft sent the following statement:
"We applaud the city of Rochester for embracing innovative, new technologies that allow residents and visitors to have more safe, affordable ride options. While we have no immediate launch plans to share, we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to bring Lyft to Rochester in the near future."