by Will Schreiber

Shared Lyft to Dunkin’ Donuts

I left Andy’s house at 4:30am to catch the first leg of my ATL-LAX-CAN-PNH journey. I ordered a shared Lyft, hoping somebody else would also be heading to the airport that early.

When the car showed up, a woman and her kindergarten-aged son were in the backseat. The kid kept dozing off as we drove across midtown, his head resting on his Spiderman backpack.

We pulled into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. They hopped out. I noticed she was wearing a Cintas Dunkin’ Donuts t-shirt. She was heading into work and presumably couldn’t leave her son at home.

Knowing Lyft prices in Atlanta, she couldn’t have paid more than $5 for the shared ride. Of course it made sense to take a Lyft to work instead of a crazy patchwork of never-on-time buses. Incredible.

Yesterday, as I was reading about Uber and Lyft’s battle over AB5, I saw a surprising stat: 38% of Lyft rides start or end in low-income neighborhoods.1

My mom mentors a college-aged woman in Birmingham who lives in a low-income household of eight. Because her family shares one car, she usually spends three hours riding and waiting on buses to get to her job at CSV. Each way. So she quit.

The debate about whether drivers like ridesharing is an interesting one. Are they employees? Are they not? We need a third worker definition, something in-between an employee and a contractor. The labor markets created by Uber and Lyft do end up with fixed-hours dynamics.

But the benefit to riders is undisputed.

It’s so undisputed that “life before Uber” conversations at dinner parties are boring. Everybody has a story about standing in the rain for hours waiting for a taxi, or being kicked out of a car on the side of the road, or being refused service because “Oh my credit card machine is broken.”

Riders can see pictures of their drivers, prices are transparent, the app tracks you, and there’s no longer a 10 minute waiting penalty for being non-white.2

Plus it’s cheap. UberX was cheap. But Uber Pool and Lyft Line are holy-shit cheap. They’re better for the environment, low-hassle, and did I mention cheap?

Even five years ago, taking a private car door-to-door to a job at Dunkin’ Donuts would have been unheard of. But it makes sense. Compared to taxis, Ubers are less than half the price, require 1/3 of the waiting time, and are willing to go about anywhere in the city.

Buying, owning, and maintaining a car is expensive. Bringing down the cost of point-to-point transportation is having really interesting impacts beyond the rich-kids-going-to-bars impression most people (myself included) have of ridesharing.3

I hope it doesn’t go away.