Carpooling of the Future, at Your Fingertips

Taxi Cab NYC

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in the back of a taxicab in New York City traffic, you’re probably familiar with that lurking anxiousness that seems to sit next to you on that sticky leather seat. You look nervously at the meter, thinking, How much is this going to cost me? as the car creeps on, covering a couple of blocks in what feels like an eternity. You try and make small talk with your cabby, but they’re disinterested. You try to pay the costly fare with your debit or credit card, and the driver isn’t having it. You stomp out of the cab and regret not riding the subway, while vowing never to take a cab again.

Lyft is available in Seattle and San Francisco. Image: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Lyft is available in Seattle and San Francisco.
Image: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

You may not have to take a cab again. Smartphone apps are revolutionizing transportation in major cities, and it’s never been easier to hitch a ride, for less. Currently, some of the leading downloadable applications in this new industry are Lyft, which offers transportation services in west coast cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, and SideCar, offering rides in dozens of cities nationwide, including New York, Washington D.C., Boston, and Los Angeles.

These services are not only convenient, with finding a ride as easy as pressing a button on your phone, but better on your wallet too. SideCar instantly connects people in need of a ride with local drivers who are willing to provide transportation, on an entirely by-donation basis. That’s right, by donation. If you’re headed downtown and want a lift, just connect with a safe, approved driver going in the same direction, and give them whatever you can. Never before has carpooling been so innovative and affordable.

Rideshare walks a fine line between carpooling and taxi services. Image: Michale Macor, The Chronicle

Rideshare walks a fine line between carpooling and taxi services.
Image: Michale Macor, The Chronicle

While these new apps may feel like the future of transportation, there are a few downsides. Some cities are questioning the legality of rideshare applications, and taxicab drivers are outraged because of how this technology detracts from their business. The apps face lawsuits in some cities filed by preexisting car services whose livelihood is threatened, although with the anticipated and well-received arrival of this innovation in transportation, it’s hard to imagine such technology going anywhere anytime soon.

You can weigh in yourself by downloading a carpooling app today and testing it out.

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