Using Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in LA
The latest craze in transportation in urban areas like Los Angeles is using a smartphone app to order up a stranger to pick you up. These rideshare apps are personal ride services where regular people offer to take you where you need to go for an agreed-upon fee, arranged through your smartphone. There's no number to call, and you can't book online. You must have a smartphone.
The personal rideshare apps allow you to catch a ride in someone's private car for a much lower fee than a taxi would charge. The two rideshare services operating in LA are Uber/UberX and Lyft. Both allow you to see what cars are available nearby, find out how much they will charge to take you where you want to go, book the car and pay for the ride all on a smart phone app. No cash changes hands.
Uber includes Uber Plus, Uber SUV and Uber Black Car which are on-call professional drivers, that are not really cheaper than a taxi. UberX is their rideshare spinoff that uses (screened) regular drivers in... their own private cars to give you a ride. Lyft is predominantly non-professional drivers in private cars. Occasionally professional drivers sign up for Lyft as well, but they are not promoted as such.
How It Works
You open the app on your phone and allow it to access your location information. It shows you the nearest cars in your area. You type in where you want to go. Uber sends the information to the closest car in your area, and if the driver accepts the trip, offers you the ride. Lyft gives you more options for choosing which of multiple available drivers you'd like to give you a ride. Some drivers add perks to entice you to choose them, like home-made cookies or other goodies. Uber and Uberx require newer cars.
You cannot call or book online, only via the smartphone apps. Search Twitter for any of these to find discount codes for new users and get dollars off your first ride. For Uber you can use code wcc9t to get up to a $15 credit on your first ride.
How Much Does It Cost?
When I just checked Uber, which you can do on their website, the cost quoted for an UberX ride from Santa Monica to Disneyland was quoted as $50-68, with bigger vehicles ranging from $86 to $252. A taxi for the same distance it $113 to $140.
Lyft doesn't have pricing on its websites, but is often less than Uber. You can download both apps to your smartphone and compare rates for the same trip. They basically work in a similar manner.
Unlike taxi drivers on a schedule, rideshare drivers work only when they want. So if it's raining or a holiday and they'd rather be celebrating themselves, demand will be higher, but fewer drivers may want to be on the road. They need a greater incentive to get them out to meet demand, so prices go up, which is called "surge pricing".
They both have systems to increase pricing when demand is high. Know what the taxi fare would be so you can tell if you're getting a good deal.
Who Is Your Driver?
Both services screen and do background checks on their drivers, and you may see a picture of the driver and his or her car before they pick you up. Some people drive for multiple services, and some Uber drivers accept UberX prices if they're not busy. In Los Angeles, your driver could be an actor that you saw last week as an extra or small role on some TV show, since the flexibility of the services lets drivers take time to audition and days or weeks off for acting gigs.
These services have started offering a service where you can share a ride with someone else going the same direction and split the fare. If a driver sees that there's someone else nearby needing a ride in the same direction, you would be offered a reduced fare to pick them up and take them along.
Rideshare To/From LAX
LAX calls these companies Transportation Network Companies. Both Uber and Lyft can drop off or pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport. They are required to charge an additional airport fee for both drop off and pick up. For pick up, meet your driver under the Ride Service Pick Up sign on the Upper/Departures Level of each terminal. It's a brown and black circle with the letter A in the center.