If you've ever attempted to cross town during rush hour, navigate through Kenmore Square when the Sox have a home game, or travel in and around Cambridge when school is letting out, then you've experienced Boston's legendary traffic. However, several companies are seeking to alleviate the gridlock with ride and car-sharing programs.
Although getting rid of personal vehicles in Boston altogether might not happen overnight, with early adopter demographics including students and Millennials—two prevalent populations in the Boston area—ride and car-sharing is certainly becoming a staple of Boston life for visitors and residents alike.
If you're planning to visit Boston and don't want to deal with the hassle of renting a car (and finding parking for it in this crowded city), consider instead using Lyft, Uber, or even Zipcar to get you to your destination while cutting down on traffic congestion on the city's busy streets.
Rideshare Apps: Lyft and Uber
When it comes to hiring a car and driver to take you to your destination, Boston has all but eliminated the once-popular cab services in favor of rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber.
Lyft offers rides from local drivers in their own cars, which can be identified by the bright pink mustaches on the front grille while Uber offers a fleet of on-demand drivers identified by the circular Uber logo in the front window in either their own vehicle or company-issued black cars (of a variety of shapes and sizes).
For both of these apps, customers can choose from a few different price-point options depending on their needs: individual cars for groups of one to seven people, ride-shares for one to two people per party that are split between two or more groups, deluxe SUVs when more room is required, and city taxi call services through the app.
Launched in San Francisco, Lyft has been in Boston since June 2013. The pink mustaches have increasingly been seen around town, most often in the neighborhoods in and near campuses—especially Harvard Square and Porter Square. Uber, on the other hand, started in Paris in 2008 and came to Boston in September of 2012.
For both of these rideshare services, standard fares don't apply. Instead, riders get a quote for the potential cost of the ride, depending on the service selected, which factors in the duration of the trip and the distance traveled as well as local demand for rides at the time of booking. These ride requests and their payments are all handled through the Uber and Lyft apps on your smartphone, which can be split between party members in the car.
Rent a Temporary Zipcar Instead
If you would rather not rely on other drivers to get you from point A to point B, you might consider the car-sharing company Zipcar, which is headquartered in Boston and found everywhere around town.
In order to use this service, you'll first need to sign up for a membership and get approved as a driver in the company's database. Once approved, you get access to the local fleet—wherever you find an empty Zipcar, as long as it's not reserved or "held" by another Zipcar member, you can unlock it with your app and take it for a spin!
Zipcar payment is twofold because not only will you pay membership fees for being part of the service, you'll also be charged an hourly or date rate for using each Zipcar you rent. Rates differ by how often you plan to drive, but gas and insurance are always included, regardless of membership plan.