Why Lyft and Uber Endanger Both Passengers and Drivers: A Former Lyft Driver Speaks Out

feature image via Shutterstock

Last winter, after a tumultuous year of soul-searching, I packed my bags and left New York City for the allegedly greener pastures of Los Angeles. I’d been dreaming of this move for ages, and I had a lot of friends and family out there, but I didn’t have practical things lined up like say, a job, or a car. I approached these issues with a combination of naiveté, east coast hustle and sneering bravado, reasoning that I’d probably just work harder/smarter/better than everyone and figure something out. Oh, this isn’t a walking city? I thought smugly. I can walk. I’ll walk all the fuck OVER this town!

I learned quickly that I was dead wrong. Not only is the city of Los Angeles gigantic, hilly and sprawling, its public transportation system is absolute garbage. It wasn’t long before a friend introduced me to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Although I was skeptical at first, I was quickly won over by the convenience, cost-effectiveness and presumed safety of ride-sharing. On nights when I found myself stranded for 45 minutes or more for a bus that would never come, it was a relief to know that I had a reliable, relatively cheap option available to get myself home. Just a few short months later, I can’t say I would feel ethically comfortable ever using either of these services again.

Although companies like Uber and Lyft offer some degree of accountability (both the driver and passenger are easily identifiable and therefore traceable), the media is rife with reports of the dangers of ride-sharing. Though all drivers are subject to background checks before being allowed to pick up passengers, it’s unclear how thoroughly they’re vetted. Despite comprehensive explanations like this guide to Washington, DC’s background check process, drivers with violent pasts have been known to slip through the cracks.


Image via Uber

The media has widely reported multiple incidents of drivers rapingassaulting, stalking or even abducting passengers — in short, it seems that even though Lyft or Uber’s system by all accounts should be safer and more reliable than jumping into any random taxi that happens to be passing by, it isn’t. Both companies’ business structures ensure that they aren’t held accountable for the actions of individual drivers — drivers are hired as independent contractors (sometimes condescendingly referred to as “driver-partners”), and training rarely extends beyond a couple of 5-minute videos explaining how the app works. Concerns about accountability go beyond the driver-passenger dynamic; it’s been revealed that Uber corporate employees may be able to view information about passengers, including their up-to-the-minute location in Uber vehicles. Not surprisingly, Uber has been less than transparent about this feature.

After national news began covering an incident in which one driver attacked his passenger with a hammer, Uber began offering optional 4-hour training courses to drivers — at $40 to $65 expense per class. For many drivers who currently struggle to make even minimum wage under Uber’s current business model, this cost is prohibitive.

In most major cities in America, Uber and Lyft are absolutely destroying the local taxi companies, while remaining desperately at odds with one another — like Spy vs. Spy if one of the spies was wearing an awful pink mustache. In Los Angeles, where I spent several months as a Lyft driver, ride-sharing is much more convenient and less expensive than cabs, and it’s a welcome alternative in a city where parking is a nightmare and public transportation is unreliable or nonexistent. The benefits are obvious — DUIs are noticeably down in cities where ridership is up, and clicking a button on your phone to reserve a ride is way easier than fighting through a crowd of drunks to battle over a passing taxi. As Uber and Lyft engage in cutthroat price-gauging to better compete against one another, fares have become much more affordable and ride-sharing has become a realistic possibility to passengers in lower income brackets. All of this sounds great, unless you’re the driver.

Welcome to Driver Mode.

Welcome to Driver Mode.

Both Lyft and Uber make a lot of promises when they hire drivers. They’re very daring in their recruitment efforts, even offering several-hundred-dollar rewards for drivers who switch from Lyft to Uber (the nasty competition between the two companies is well-documented), as part of a marketing program called Operation SLOG (Supplying Long-Term Operations Growth). Drivers are promised a flexible, casual, easy gig with endless opportunities to make piles of money. Absurdly optimistic hourly rates aside, Uber actually offers to help new drivers finance brand new vehicles if they don’t already own one. This is where things get a bit tricky — Uber doesn’t actually finance the loans themselves, and many of their applicants have subpar or even no credit. Additionally, the nature of their pay system makes it actually impossible to predict drivers’ future earnings (Uber have bragged that drivers in New York average $90,766/year; this has proven to be nowhere near the case). Valleywag did a great job breaking down Uber’s sketchy subprime lending system, declaring that “…with cash flows demonstrably unreliable and civil investigations around the corner, Uber wouldn’t suffer from adding some more asterisks to its emails.” Uber aren’t alone in screwing over their “partners” this way — Lyft drivers who purchased $34,000 tricked-out SUVs after being promised increased revenue as part of Lyft’s brand new Lyft Plus program (designed to compete with Uber SUV) were left hanging when the program didn’t take off, and the drivers could no longer afford the 14 mpg gas guzzlers.


You could buy this vest!

I became a Lyft driver this past summer, reasoning that it was a great way to earn a few extra bucks, learn the city and meet new people. After months of mostly fruitless job-hunting in LA, I was thrilled by how quick the background check process was and how enthusiastic and eager Lyft seemed to be about getting me out onto the road. I was matched with a mentor, who met with me and another potential driver in a McDonalds parking lot, and at no point asked me to get behind the wheel and drive him anywhere (which I later learned was the entire point of the mentoring session). This intrepid gentleman made a cool $70 ($35 per mentoring session) from the half hour he spent taking cell phone pictures of our cars and teaching us how to fist-bump passengers (Lyft drivers are more or less obligated to fist-bump passengers, in an effort to show how cool and personable Lyft is. It always seemed really awkward so I never did it, sorry.). After my mentor reported back to Lyft that I was a real human being who owned a real car, I was free to start picking up passengers, so I did so immediately. I quickly learned that I made the most money driving at night, and often hung around West Hollywood, mostly delivering intoxicated older gay men home from bars. Passengers always asked me how I liked driving and I always told them I loved it, that the whole experience of picking up total strangers in my car was a very unique and surprisingly pleasant way to meet people. My ratings were excellent.

Under Lyft’s current system, drivers have no way of knowing how much a ride costs until the next morning, when we’d receive an email reporting our earnings from the night before. An average ride was maybe a mile or so, and after Lyft collected their dollar safety fee and their 20% cut, I’d come away with about $3.20 per ride. Nobody ever tipped, mostly because the mythology behind ride-sharing is that the tip is included and you absolutely don’t have to — or even shouldn’t. I reasoned that I was still learning how the system worked, so it didn’t really bother me that I wasn’t making nearly as much money as they’d promised right away.

After a couple of weeks of Lyfting, I learned some uncomfortable truths about the whole process. First, it was just about impossible to make any money. Drivers walk away with 80% of the fare, with zero base pay – so if you don’t have any passengers, you’re just wasting time. The parent company keep the other 20%, and since they are constantly hiring new drivers, there’s a steady stream of income even if they offer a summer sale or other excuse for a discounted fare. At the same time, there were so many drivers on the road at any given time in any given area, it became tougher and tougher to actually catch a fare – and with prices at an all-time low, there was even less money to go around. Lyft passengers are automatically paired with the closest available driver, and oftentimes that came down to circumstance, ie driving past a person at the exact second they requested a ride. On a typical Saturday night, there could be twenty cars hovering around one corner, hoping to catch a single person walking out of one bar. I never came anywhere near the $35 an hour Lyft’s website boasted I would soon be making. One night, I drove for five hours and made less than seven dollars before giving up and drowning my sorrows in pizza on the couch.

Another thing that bothered me about driving was passengers’ overall attitude towards the system. As a New Yorker, I’d never really thought about how I treated drivers when I took a taxi; I was always reasonably polite and tipped generously, but usually just talked to my friends or played on my phone. Now, I noticed how uncomfortable the dynamic could be, how rarely my passengers treated me as though I were an actual human being. I was regularly casually insulted or talked through, and although I joke about it often, I was very surprised to learn how awkward it was to have complete strangers making out furiously in the back of your own car (I spent that entire ride silently repenting for my drunken twenties). On several occasions, passengers literally thanked me for being an English-speaking white woman (seriously?!), and rudely asked me what my real job was. In Los Angeles, a lot of drivers are struggling actors who pick up shifts for extra cash, but a lot of us just needed to pay our rent by any means necessary — I was having enough trouble reconciling my current situation with my career goals, and one time when a passenger asked me that, I actually cried.

Lyft emailed me often, telling me that I was in their top percentage of drivers, that I was suddenly (within a month or so) qualified to become a mentor, that I was eligible for any number of perks. I began to wonder if everyone who drove for them received the same emails, and I was never assigned a single mentoring session. I wasn’t earning enough money to cover the amount of gas I burned through in a week (even in my earth-friendly Prius!), and found my enthusiasm for the gig waning swiftly.

My passengers asked me often how safe I felt as a female Lyft driver, and in an effort to keep the conversation light and pleasant (which I hoped would result in higher ratings), I lied through my teeth and told them everything was fine – that the nature of ride-sharing was so awkward and strange that people were often very pleasant and polite, and that I’d made a lot of great friends this way. I told them about how the drivers rate the passengers the same way the passengers rate the drivers, so I always knew what I was getting into and never felt like I was in danger. Truthfully, I worried about my own safety more often than not, and because it was so hard to catch a fare to begin with, I never turned down a ride no matter how inconvenient the location was, how low the passenger’s rating was or how uncomfortable the passenger made me. I simply wasn’t making enough money to be choosy, and declining or missing rides impeded my ability to earn percentage bonuses for hours spent in driver mode (Our acceptance rate had to be 90% or higher to collect bonuses, and every little bit helped). Before I signed up with Lyft, a female Uber driver had showed me all the places she’d hidden pepper spray around her car just in case she found herself assaulted. I thought spraying pepper spray inside a small vehicle sounded like a terrible idea, but I did wonder often what I’d do in that position. On only two occasions, I did have to cancel a ride due to concerns over my own safety or the safety of my car, and in both cases I was extremely lucky that the passengers in question exited my vehicle without a struggle.

So far, the only mainstream attention female drivers have received are glowing reports of how women are breaking into an often male-dominated industry and how convenient the flexible schedule is for working moms, but there have been surprisingly few inquiries into how Lyft and Uber are protecting the women who work for them. When a creepy male passenger once refused to give me his address for my GPS and instead insisted on intermittently barking vague directions, I found myself actually wondering if he was taking me somewhere to hurt me, and if I would have to wait until the next day to email customer service to report it. There was no infrastructure in place to protect me should a passenger become violent, and I cringed as I imagined the form email I might receive in response — “Your feedback about your customer support interaction is important to help us improve your experience in the future.”

If the public were searching for clues regarding how these companies feel about the women who work for them, Uber gave the world a remarkable hint when it rolled out a daring new promotion in conjunction with an app called “Avions de Chasse.” Through their partnership with Uber, riders in Lyon, France could be paired exclusively with hot female drivers for a special ride with a twenty-minute time limit – with the tagline “Who said women don’t know how to drive?” As the English version of the app’s website explains, “‘Avions de chasse’ is the French term for ‘fighter jets,’ but also the colloquial term to designate an incredibly hot chick. Lucky you! the world’s most beautiful ‘Avions’ are waiting for you on this app. Seat back, relax and let them take you on cloud 9!” It’s unclear what exactly the Avions de Chasse app is actually for, but for unaffiliated women who are regular drivers for Uber, the implication that their job involves being an object for the male gaze is troubling.

This is what the Avions de Chasse website looks like, so.

This is what the Avions de Chasse website looks like, so.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick smugly jokes that his extremely profitable company has garnered him so much tail that he now refers to it as “Boob-er,” so nobody exactly expected Uber to be particularly sensitive towards women. All the same, the whole Avions de Chasse catastrophe really takes the cake. As soon as BuzzFeed News got ahold of the story, Uber quietly pulled the promotion from their website, and later described it as a “clear misjudgment.” Avions’ co-founder Pierre Garonnaire described the situation as a cultural misunderstanding, explaining that “They didn’t anticipate the reaction of Uber US. In the US, you are more Puritan. For me and most of the people of France, it was a good [idea]. It was fun.” Sarah Lacy hit the nail on the head when she explained in her op-ed “The Horrific Trickle-Down Of Asshole Culture: Why I’ve Just Deleted Uber From My Phone” that Uber “…posted an ad that encouraged, played on, and celebrated treating women who may choose to drive cars to make extra money like hookers.”

Of course, Sarah Lacy’s critiques of Uber made headlines earlier this week when news broke that their senior vice president of business had openly discussed hiring a personal attack squad of investigative journalists to dig up dirt on Lacy — and any other reporter who dared speak ill of the company. Although Uber’s CEO has denied that such smear tactics are being used, there have been zero repercussions for the employee who made these very public, very specific threats.

When I received a company-wide email from Lyft informing me that they were about to start counting driver-initiated cancellations against our acceptance rates, I decided I’d had enough of driving and quit. The ability to cancel a ride if I felt unsafe was a flimsy but still important part of feeling protected, and now I couldn’t do so without jeopardizing my ability to earn bonuses or even remain an active driver.

 The structure of both Lyft and Uber is designed solely to benefit the companies themselves, with little consideration for its “driver-partners,” or (in many cases) even for its customers. Neither company takes full responsibility for its worker bees, branding themselves as a technology platform as opposed to a transportation company. In theory, the idea of ride-sharing still sounds appealing and filled with enormous potential, but in actual practice, the system is mostly frustrating, unethical and honestly just not safe enough — for passengers or drivers.

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Stef Schwartz is a founding member and the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

Stef has written 464 articles for us.


  1. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking crazy pills when I talk to my friends about Uber and Lyft, particularly because nearly all of my friends are feminists who care about social justice issues. I remember when I first heard about the rape you mentioned in the article and before I even knew any of the details it was really striking to me because I’d been sexually assaulted about a month before while walking home, and one of the things I’d berated myself for was not taking a cab (even though it was daylight and I was walking just two blocks). The utter disrespect for women on both ends of the equation as drivers and passengers (and now even as journalists) and the absolute glee with which the founders of these companies spread misinformation and dangerous lies is completely horrifying to me, and I hope that you and other people talking about this and sharing your perspectives and experiences will help people realize how fucked up the entire “ridesharing” model is.

    Thanks for writing this, and for putting all of the reasons that I don’t use these services into a single well-written article that I can beg my friends to read!

    You’re a badass, dude.

    • I’m so sorry that happened to you. I sincerely hope that you’re past blaming yourself for what happened, because you are 100% NOT AT FAULT. You are strong – never forget that.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I haven’t used Uber (no Lyft in Australia!) and now I definitely don’t plan to.

  3. I’m so glad you’re not doing that anymore and now you have veggie passengers, so you’re literally carting around the Cumberjanes now instead, which seems like a big step up to me. Love you so hard. <3

  4. Glad to have an inside view on this thing. Uber isn’t a thing in my country (I think?), but I’d be damned if I ever use this service.
    Glad to see you safer and happier too.

  5. Oh wow, I didn’t know any of this. I’m glad you’re not driving anymore, and I hope these companies straighten up/meet a timely demise.

  6. I drive for both uber and Lyft and, while my experience is anecdotal, I do have over 1000 rides completed. One of the questions that I regularly ask my passengers is “tell me your worst taxi and/or ride share nightmare story”. The ladies have, by far, the most horrific stories.
    Drivers getting out of their cars and getting into fist fights, obviously intoxicated drivers (with open containers in the car), and a whole host of inappropriate advances, including flashing, were constant themes. The vast majority of the aggregious offenses were taxi driver related and not ride share related. Of course since taxis have been around longer, they have had more time to accrue a bad reputation.
    All of this being said, I wonder if someone could go through the effort to compile some actual driver related offense statistics instead of just waving a half dozen headline stories around. I realize that this would take actual research and journalism skills, but I don’t think that this is an unreasonable request.
    A statistical comparison of the behavior of taxi drivers vs. rides share drivers on a per ride basis would make for an interesting and objective story… Don’t you think?

    • It’s more than “journalistic” skills required for a study of that magnitude, I’d think! But yes, I think that would be interesting.

      I’ve had largely good experiences with Sydney cabbies thus far.

    • “I realize that this would take actual research and journalism skills, but I don’t think that this is an unreasonable request.”

      lol srsly?

  7. We don’t have Uber in Ireland but it sounds similar to Hailo, must look into that now to see if there are the same problems

  8. This was a really great article which sucks because that means you had some truly terrifying experiences to write this so effectively. It’s sick that these companies are pushing further to strip the safety and agency of their drivers which, of course, disproportionately affects women. I’m glad these companies don’t seem to be as popular in Canada (at least that I’ve come across).

    I’m curious as to how these ideas would fare in countries where service jobs aren’t seen as dehumanizing or “not your real” job. That’s probably a huge factor in how these business models are successful in a gross US society that refuses to pay service workers livable wages.

  9. i’ve gotten introduced to hailo here in dublin and i loooooove it. the fact i can call a cab and see the driver’s face and his reviews and also not have to pay him directly on the spot is the most wonderful thing after a couple of bad cab experiences in philly. i think from what i’ve seen, hailo is the type of thing that works best in small cities like dublin where the community of drivers is tightknit and friendly and there aren’t people hailing cabs on the street on every block. i don’t actually think i’ve ever seen someone physically hail a cab here? that said, hailo would probably be a nightmare in new york or la or any big american city and the ineffectiveness of apps like hailo in those places is probably why uber and lyft took off and can be as crooked as they want to be, because the only other option is actually getting a cab the old fashioned way.

    stef i wish there was a service where you drive puppies and kittens around. you could do that. i would call it kit or pupper.

    • Hailo did exist in Washington DC and some other cities in the US and Canada but it actually just left those cities about a month ago (I’m really upset about this, and I hope they return). I used Hailo frequently, but there are a lot of reasons why it was different from Lyft or Uber: Hailo (at least in the US) worked as a dispatch company for existing cab drivers who had already been vetted by cab companies. When you hailed a cab with Hailo, you knew that the cab driver had passed all of the background checks and carried full insurance, and also actually knew their way around the city. I had a bad experience one time with a Hailo driver but I was able to directly contact the cab company the driver worked for as well as Hailo, so there was some accountability on both ends.

  10. You mean driving strangers around in your private vehicle isn’t safe? Wow, you needed an article to blow the lid off of this one.

    • The article was definitely more about how poorly Lyft (and, presumably, Uber) treat their drivers and only in part about the safety aspect.

  11. The only time I ever took an Uber was because my very wealthy friend from my freshman year of college paid for it. She yelled at me when I thanked the driver at the end of our ride because she said you shouldn’t thank “the help”
    I wasn’t friends with her for much longer and never took Uber again because buses are so much cheaper….

  12. I rode in Uber cars twice. I liked it a lot. I thought it was a God send compared to all the horrible experiences I’ve had with NYC cabs. Your article has shed light on a facade to the ride-share companies I had not know. I really appreciate this.

    Uber/ Lyft are smugly enjoying their success. I don’t think Uber or Lyft drivers should wait until the next person gets hurt. I think drivers should start a union to combat unfair wages and safety issues.

  13. I really appreciated this article and it changed my perspective. Taking Uber has always felt so awesome to an awkward introvert like me, and I’ve loved every experience I’ve had with them. I took Uber’s insistence that you do NOT need to tip to heart even though I worked in the service industry for too long to believe that does right by the drivers.

    Taxis are a rare indulgence for me, and generally I would use them when I was scared for my safety and didn’t have another way to get home, so I always felt bitter about having to spend my meager earnings just to feel safe. Uber made things so much easier for me when coming home late at night, the question of “should I walk in this freezing rain and risk getting assaulted or should I pay for an Uber?” was a no-brainer.

    And yet…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is—like when I buy accessories from H&M and can’t get over how cheap the shiny baubles are when deep down, I know there’s a horrible reason for that. It’s frustrating because there really doesn’t seem to be much of an alternative, taxi drivers have to bust their ass too, especially now that ride-sharing is such a thing.

    I guess this makes me feel slightly better that I recently broke down and bought a car, though I’m finding out more and more that parking might waste as much of my time as late busses did.

  14. The only time I ever used Lyft/Uber was because a friend was throwing a party out in the Hollywood Hills and if you’re at all familiar with the area, you know finding a parking spot is damn near impossible up there. I went with friends so I felt safe to use the service. We took advantage of the whole “your first ride is free.” I stick to cabs when I know I’m going to be drinking in my area. I was thinking of making the switch here locally, but now I won’t for sure.

  15. I find this all very fascinating. I’ve been wondering about what really goes on with these companies. Great rundown, Stef!

  16. Very informative – thank you for sharing. Reading through parts of this just made me cringe. After going through separate periods of not having a stable source of employment and not having a car (while living in a place where public transportation was nonexistent), I am extremely thankful to now have both.

  17. This was very informative, and I am going to take a lot into consideration. However, living in NYC, and specifically my neighborhood, I haven’t felt as safe, or had as pleasant of a ride as I do whenever I take Uber. I’ve had violent, nightmarish experiences with yellow cabs and car services. I can’t say how many times a driver has thought I’m not paying attention, and I realize we are a mile clear out of the way of the direct shot home, or throw a fit, punching steering wheel and seats because I live in an undesirable neighborhood. I like that I can enter my destination into Uber, and watch on a map exactly where we are going, and they’re held accountable and can’t kick me out.
    I’ll certainly take into account, tipping. I seriously thought it wasn’t necessary using Uber, but I will start tipping, especially on short trips.

    • This is an excellent point. I have no personal experience, but I’ve seen a lot of people I follow on Twitter debating, and Uber/Lyft tend to go places cab drivers flat out REFUSE to go, and are significantly more likely to pick up POC than cab drivers, who are basically the worst to people who aren’t white.

      • This has definitely been the case in Malaysia – the taxi drivers are super horrible and unsafe, and Uber is a godsend in comparison. I’ve also seen some discussion on Twitter about the POC-pickup angle.

        It really sucks that all our options for car-based public transport seem to be pretty shitty for multiple reasons. (I have read about how taxi companies don’t pay their employees well either, so it’s not like they win on the labor front.)

  18. An uber driver that came to pick up a neighbor chatted me up while I was taking my dog out and he was waiting for the passenger to come out. He kept asking me if I needed a ride. 30 minutes later, I went to leave my apartment and he had left a note IN (not on, in. How?) my car. I received another, this time on my car, a couple days later. The fact that he was an uber driver is kind of irrelevant because it was just a creepy guy thing.
    A creepy guy who worked for uber.

  19. I’ve always wondered about the claims and promises that Uber and Lyft re: the per hour thing. I have a friend who did Uber a couple of months back and they had a week of getting just about 35 an hour. Plus I’ve always considered getting these services if I ever get too drunk to get myself home but I’m pretty wary of public transportation here in LA.


    • I think it depends on the area you are in and going to or coming from at least in my experience. Time of day may matter too, but it’s been a while.

  20. We need Homobiles everywhere.

    This isn’t directly related, but I’ve been pedicabbing off & on for about eight years, and some (many) of the other pedicabbers I’ve known are creepy. Mostly just typical cis straight white guy creepy, but that’s plenty creepy enough. Boy’s clubs, yuck.

  21. I generally use uberT to hail an NYC yellow cab. Do you think the drivers experience similar issues? Is NY the only city with this option? I wanna know cause it’s winterrrr and I love having a taxi come straight to my doorstep. But if I’m making somebody’s life miserable by using it then I guess I’ll have to go it the old fashioned way.

  22. Interesting article. I live in LA and use Uber ALL the time. I would take cabs or public transportation in other cities, but in LA the public transportation system sucks and hailing a cab? No way. I’ve only take cabs to and from the airport in LA until Uber. Now, it’s always Uber. I have never felt unsafe, knock on wood. I’ve taken Uber late at night, drunk, etc. and always been fine. Of course, it only does take that one time. About tipping though… I always tip around 20% for every service, but couldn’t figure out how to tip on the Uber app. Last month I took an Uber to the airport (first time with Uber) and tried to give the driver extra money for my bags (like I always do with cabs) and he wouldn’t take it, so I thought Uber actually didn’t accept tips…?

    • Yeah, I wonder if Uber drivers get in trouble for taking tips? Because the couple of times I’ve used Uber the driver has always refused a tip and just asked for a good rating instead.

  23. I used Uber for the first time two days ago, at the behest of my aunt (she did it all through her account for me). It seemed like a nice, convenient thing although I was definitely nervous about getting picked up by a stranger. Luckily, it was a woman and she was nice and we got where we were going safely. I’m bummed to hear about how poor a service it is for drivers, though. I guess I’ll have to stick with regular cabs in the future!

  24. This is a very well written article and I’m glad to have such an informed perspective – but I want to hear many more perspectives before I throw in the towel on ride sharing.

    Maybe this is the foaming at the mouth rabid libertarian that I keep shackled deep inside me speaking, but all of the issues I’ve heard brought up against ride-sharing sound like they will work themselves out if you let the free market take its course. Every employer dreams of having a stable workforce that it doesn’t need to train, and these companies are striving to realize that dream – and I think they’re going to make it. They put potential drivers out there and see if they sink or swim. The ugly capitalist truth is that most will sink, few will swim and that the few that will swim probably won’t have the demographic distribution of my egalitarian feminist dream world. More than likely this means that soon the ride share industry will be dominated by be a fairly stable collection of predominantly male drivers who already possess excellent customer service skills.

    Technology is radically changing our economy and “a technology platform as opposed to a transportation company” will likely have a place in it. I think it’s entirely possible that with time, it will turn out to be safer and more effective than current transportation models. Also one has to consider the skyrocketing demand for cheap transportation, safe credit card transactions and instant access to customer service ratings that is driving these two companies. If Uber and Lyft fall today, others will quickly rise to take their place. Ride sharing might sound bizarre and scary now – but if you breakdown analogous modern services, like online marketplaces, they can sound just as creepy.

    Think about Ebay, amazon marketplace, abe books, hpb marketplace, etc. I more familiar with amazon, so let me use that as an example. I’ve bought dozens of books from what are complete strangers on the internet. If I want a copy of the etymologicon and someone named Steve McGee can mail it to me for four bucks, cool. With a few clicks I can see that this seller has done a hundred sales has excellent ratings. I can then have amazon process the financial part of the transaction and steve does the foot work. Steve now has my name, my address, and knows I love etymology. From that last piece of information he could reasonably infer that I am in fact, single and probably live alone. In theory he could show up at my home and force me to listen to him read words with the wrong prefixes! That unpossible, imbelievable, incomely madman!

    I got a little off track there, the point is that I doubt this crosses anyone’s mind. When it comes to online transactions, people clearly believe that access to an online seller’s service record is enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not to let that individual have access to their name and address. All uber and lyft are trying to do is see if this model can work for ride sharing. I think it can, but in the end we’ll just have to see.

    • Nikki, I get what you’re saying (disruption can be good, it’s easy to fear new things, etc.), but your analogy really doesn’t work here. The guy who you buy a book from may have your address and a poorly informed opinion about you, but you’re not stuck in a vehicle with him. When you buy a book on Amazon you don’t have to go to a stranger’s house and then let him drive you home with the thing you bought, and if you leave a bad review for that stranger you don’t have to worry that they will try to destroy you professionally and personally for daring to do so.

      At least one member of the Autostraddle community was actually raped by an Uber driver; this not a hypothetical situation.

  25. Thank you Stef for this very well written account ones experience working with and for one of these “rideshares.”
    I have worked as an LA taxi driver for going on 13 years and had a similar experience driving Uber. When these companies popped up I was really pissed…mainly because of all the trouble and time it takes me to maintain myself as an LA city taxi driver (inspections, drug tests, fines, fees, dues, over-regulation)….all for what? So these creeps can come in…provide essentially the same service…but not have to pla

  26. A lot of what you said in this opinion piece are literally blatant lies. I am a Lyft driver and mentor in Pittsburgh, Pa and none of what you said is true for us here. I’ve been driving for almost a year now. We have tons of female drivers and we never feel unsafe. We communicate with one another through Facebook groups and even in the national facebook groups for Lyft drivers I haven’t ever heard any instances of harassment towards women. And I am extremely active in these groups, keeping up with them every day and posting regularly. Mentoring sessions (interviews/training sessions) take at least an hour and determine whether or not the driver is accepted to drive. Maybe in LA you had a random bad experience. I would have emailed [email protected] to report the mentor as inadequate so he would be removed as a mentor. Lyft has extremely high standards for drivers and cars, higher than taxis. FYI, many taxi companies allow convicts to drive, but not Lyft. And after each ride both the rider and driver rate each other. If someone was less than 5 stars the person says what the issue was and, if necessary, Lyft will remove someone as a rider or driver. I ALWAYS feel safer riding in a Lyft than with a Taxi. Taxi drivers are usually random old men who barely speak to me, if at all, and often don’t even speak English so you don’t even know if they are taking you to the right place or the quickest way. Also, in places like Pittsburgh, we don’t even have a functioning taxi service so Lyft has been a huge life saver. Literally. Police have reported that DUIs have gone down significantly since ridesharing has arrived here. Even our mayor and state senators use Lyft regularly. There are full and part time Lyft drivers all across the U.S. and we are doing just fine. LA might have temporarily been saturated with more drivers than riders and that happens from time to time in some cities, depending on the time of year, where you drive, and weather/holidays/events. That’s why some of us don’t drive at less busy times. Perhaps you didn’t do your research to find the best times to drive. If LA is a city where it’s not feasible to drive full time then you could have found another job. If you are certified as a driver you can drive as little or as often as you’d like. Like any job, some are more lucrative in different cities and locations and times of year, etc. That’s a job like that and by doing it you accept that. I am a small queer woman and drive drunk guys around even at 3am. I know that they are connected to the system by their credit card, personal contact information, gps phone tracking, automatic recording of routes etc. and the ability of drivers to rate riders. Some people (like you) aren’t cut out to be working in jobs like this where if you drive at night you deal with drunk people and picking people up at different locations, etc. If your acceptance rate was so low that Lyft actually emailed you about it, you had to have been cancelling a ton of rides, and you can’t do a job where you don’t service so many people just because you don’t like the way they dress or where you are picking them up. That’s discrimination. Cancelling from time to time for a legit reason like a guy is fighting or throwing up all over the street is fine. FYI acceptance rates don’t affect you as a driver unless you are doing it all the time, which it sounds like you were. Sometimes when you work in customer service positions you have to deal with folks you wouldn’t like to, but that just goes with the territory. We are just encouraged to have as high an acceptance rate as possible to ensure people are matched with the closest available drivers. All companies are forced to care about the “bottom line” because we live in a capitalist society and the investors who fund companies like Lyft require them to ensure that they are bringing in a profit. Lyft definitely cares how drivers feel because we are a crucial element to the success of the company. Lyft hosts parties for us and pays for us to do activities together and drivers meet up with each other weekly. From this piece I can tell that you do not have sufficient customer service skills and are clearly not cut out to be a driver. That’s not Lyft’s fault, that’s yours. Lyft is a very moral company and as someone with a very strong moral compass I wouldn’t be working for them if those issues were there. I can’t speak for your actual personal experiences, but I can speak to the fact that you made blatant lies about things I know to be untrue and that anyone can look online and see. There could be 2 queer women working at a bar, one of them might love it and be great at it, the other could hate it and be awful at it. The bartender who doesn’t like the job or is bad at it might say that the bar is a bad place to work but the other bartender could say the opposite thing. Lyft has been a huge benefit to millions of people all over the country and provided many thousands of jobs and safe, fun rides to so many people. It’s offensive that you made all these false claims that are blatant lies and have them published in a kickass place like Autostraddle. Shame on you.

    • I forgot to mention that in addition to there being a ton of female Lyft drivers, we have a ton of openly lgbtq drivers, and, of course, a ton of female and lgbtq riders. We even had a strong contingent in the pride parade, and half of us were female.

    • Hey, so I am interested in potentially becoming a Lyft driver, but my concerns were 1. my own safety and 2. my liability if an accident occurred.

      When someone requests to be picked up by Lyft, do they have to put their credit card info/personal information in the system before they are picked up?

      And what’s the policy in regards to accidents? The last thing I would want is to get into an accident, the passenger gets injured, and I am liable for tens of thousands.

  27. I was considering Lyft to earn some extra cash and I decided to do a little research first…So glad I came across your article! My biggest concern was safety, I wasn’t planning on driving in Chicago at night, but even during the day things can definitely happen.

  28. I’m not sure where you are getting your information,
    but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning
    more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this
    information for my mission.

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