When Uber and Lyft decided to abandon us poor souls in Austin at the notion of having to fingerprint their drivers and pony up five trillion dollars to the local city council, many of us thought, “Oh man! How am I gonna get home after drinking ten margaritas at lunch?!”
But that panic was short-lived. It wasn’t long before numerous apps and alternatives started to appear out of the blue and gain traction. Day-time rum drinkers were relieved. Arcade City was one of the first ones to appear and presented an interesting proposition to all those drivers who lost their income stream overnight.
Arcade City is essentially a Facebook group where tons of drivers and passengers sign up, negotiate rates and arrange rides wherever and whenever. It all seems a bit shady—nothing I’m interested in using.
The company has been embroiled in controversy since the beginning. Last I heard, Austin police were cracking down on people illegally giving rides for money, since they weren’t complying by any of the rules of being a TNC (Transportation Networking Company). Also, the local police are trying to track down Arcade City’s CEO who appears to have vanished. Maybe he got a job at Uber.
But you don’t really need to use Arcade City, since there are numerous other alternatives–like Wingz, zTrip, FARE, GetMe, Fasten, InstaRyde and RideAustin. They’re all desperately trying to fill the void left by Uber and Lyft and are likely vying to become the next world-dominating ridesharing app.
So, one day, I decided to click on a few of these iPhone icons to see how good they are. What else do I have to do anyway? Sit at home alone like the lonely, friend-less human being that I am?
Using these apps was the perfect excuse to go out drinking and not have to worry about driving. It was time for for me to find out if the lack of Uber or Lyft in Austin was really an issue. With my curiosity killing me, I signed up for these apps as I prepared myself for a night of imbibing. Beer and Wingz sounded like a good combination, so I tried Wingz first.
However, within seconds, Wingz stopped me dead in my tracks. As soon as I started searching for rides, I came across this.
What?! 1 HOUR?!? Are you kidding? This is 2016—I need my instant ramen noodles NOW. Not tomorrow.
After getting over my disappointment that it wasn’t going to be a Beer and Wingz kind of night, I opened up GetMe.
I had been hearing about GetMe for a while but right off the bat, the app seemed buggy and didn’t have the slick interface that I have now come to expect from all the software on my iPhone.
GetMe was trying to do more than just get me somewhere—it was also trying to get me something. But, tonight, I just needed to get somewhere. Like with Wingz, I gave up using GetMe quickly because it didn’t work that well. And the graphics were horrible—like they were outsourced to a 3rd grader in Argentina, who just started learning how to create apps.
Yes, it was time to move on.
Next up was RideAustin. There’s been a lot of local buzz about RideAustin lately because it’s actually structured as a non-profit that is designed to not only pay drivers more than competitors but also make donations to charities. They’re also abiding by Austin’s rules of finger-printing and paying our city council 150% of all fees charged.
On RideAustin, as soon as I started searching for rides, I was greeted with this message.
No, I’m not waiting 10 minutes. It wasn’t an hour-long wait, but surely someone could pick me up sooner than 10 minutes. Time is money! And in my world, a minute is worth 0.0001 cent. Every 0.0001 cent saved is 0.0001 cent earned.
And so I switched to Fasten. Fasten and Beers it is. I’m glad I switched to Fasten because there was a car 5 minutes away. Nice—0.0005 cent saved.
Fasten, like RideAustin, has complied with Austin TNC regulations and claims to treat their drivers well. Who knows how true this is but, at least, the driver that picked me up confirmed this. This was unlike the numerous complaints I had heard about from Uber drivers.
Fasten only charges $0.99 for the driver per ride as opposed to Uber who charges 20-30% of the total fee. Those thieves! Uber is like the Walmart of ride-sharing apps and on a mission to take over the universe. Looks like it is handily accomplishing this at the expense of its broke drivers.
Drivers working for Fasten can also drive for the other ridesharing apps which gives them more flexibility. And, don’t forget, happy drivers equal happy passengers purring like kittens.
With Fasten, I experienced a drama-free ride to my destination. The driver was great and the experience was similar to any good ridesharing experience you might have had lately. But, I must say, it’s always a bit strange getting into the back seat of some random person that pulls up right in front of you. Chances are high that your next door neighbor is the driver. And so, when I’m in the car, I feel obligated to engage in some level of chitchat to eliminate the awkward silence.
But there’s also another reason why I feel compelled to talk. That’s because I want to be perceived as a “good” passenger. In case you didnt know, Uber drivers rate their passengers. I want to be a highly rated passenger because if I’m not, I’m worried that a future Uber driver would pick me up, drop me off in the middle of nowhere and stab me to death for being a two-star passenger.
I don’t want to be a two-star passenger—I’m not settling for anything less than five stars. In this way, taxis are much less stressful because it’s fine for both the passenger and the driver to completely ignore each other’s existence or even hate each other’s guts.
So, anyway, after enjoying myself for a few hours in downtown Austin, I decided to give FARE a shot for the ride home. Although FARE’s fare is a bit higher than Fasten’s, FARE has a concept of a “preferred driver.” This is a good idea because if you like a driver and the scheduling works out, you can call on them whenever; it’s like having your own personal chauffeur who is only available at 3 pm on Wednesdays, and 9 AM on Sundays.
After playing around with all these apps, I realized that these ridesharing companies are basically doing the exact same thing and there really are only three ways they can differentiate themselves from each other: a) how well the drivers get paid, b) how cheap the rides are and c) how ridiculous the company name is-like FoShizzly.
But even FoShizzly or zTrip or InstaRyde won’t be able to stay standing once the tidal waves of Uber and Lyft come barreling back into Austin.
But, in the meantime, an abundance of all these companies isn’t a bad thing for drivers or passengers—the more alternatives there are for ridesharing, the better. Perhaps I should throw myself into the mix and create a TorqueAffair ridesharing app. Except mine will be way cooler. It will only feature cars with at least 500 lb-ft of torque to get you to your destination quickly and in style. No more of this Cruze, Camry and Kia crap.
Torque Affair is about exploring my fascination with cars. I’m always on the lookout for things that interest me in the car world.
Like Torque Affair