New Yorkers are increasingly turning to e-hail and rideshare apps to supplement their use of mass transit and bicycling. Uber pioneered ridesharing—it's been around since 2008—and it's the 10-ton gorilla of rideshare. It has the most cars on the road of the traditional rideshare apps and currently is offering cut-rate fares on Uber Pool. But Uber also has the highest surge pricing (up to 4x the regular cost of the road) and drivers have frequently protested the company's labor practices. Fortunately, there are a good number of other options out there, so we put together this handy guide. We hope it's useful. (Just remember that all those cab rides can add up to serious sticker-shock at the end of the month.)
Lyft seems to be consistently number one among rideshare apps in terms of customer satisfaction. Comparatively priced to rates of other rideshare services, what sets Lyft apart from the bunch is its commitment to a pleasant experience. The company claims that 97 percent of people who have used Lyft are likely to recommend the service to someone else because of it, though we couldn't independently verify these figures.
Like Uber, Lyft has a surge pricing option, Lyft Prime Time service. The surge rate is shown prior to a ride request, and users must click a button confirming they understand they will be paying the surge rate. Lyft Prime Time maxes out at a surge of three times a standard fare, so at peak times, you will pay less than you would in an Uber. (Uber surge maxes out at 4x.) That means, however, that at the most extreme surge times, drivers make more picking up Uber passengers, giving them an edge in getting a ride quickly. Anecdotally, drivers who work for both Uber and Lyft told us they're treated much better by Lyft, even though the companies take the same commission.
Tipping: In app
Gett is a bit of a new kid on the block. The company just released a carpooling program called "Gett Together," which offers $3 carpool rides within certain zones of Manhattan. (There are pre-set routes and you have to get picked up along the route.) Gett has a similar pricing structure to Lyft and Uber, but what sets it apart is that it does not use surge pricing. It also offers a booking window of up to four weeks in advance, so you can, for example, schedule a pick-up before a flight or at the terminal when you arrive. It's a black car service at heart, but with a handy app and pool option. Users get a firm quote before confirming a ride. But be careful when you're booking in advance: the first five minutes a driver waits are free, but after that, you pay $1 a minute. So if your plane is delayed...
Tipping: In app
Via seems to be the most economical of the ridesharing apps, especially for long rides. If your employer offers a commuter benefit, you can use it on Via rides.
Unfortunately, Via is not the best option when you are in a rush. Because this is a carpooling app, riders don't get dropped off at exact destinations. Instead, they are picked up or dropped off at app-designated street corners. Routes are designed to maximize the number of riders picked up along the way, rather than speed. The street-corner rule means that even if you're a block from the West Side Highway and it's your fastest route downtown, your driver has to stay on local streets in case someone else wants to hail a ride. That's the case even if there is terrible traffic and even if no one else is in the car. So what otherwise would have been a 10 minute ride can turn into an hourlong nightmare. The more people who request a ride, the more stops your Via will make.
Tipping: Not Permitted
From a rider standpoint, Juno is pretty similar to Uber, Lyft, and Gett. But from the perspective of a driver, this app offers a greater incentive to drive. Juno claims that it takes only a 10 percent commission on rides, compared to commissions of 30 percent or so for Uber or Lyft. On a $30 fare, a driver would take home $23.61 using Juno, versus $19.11 on Uber. (One cab driver told us that he's been hit with unexpected fees from Juno that cut down on his take, but no other Juno drivers said this was the case.) The company says drivers will receive equity, though it's unclear what form that will take, exactly. Juno also has plans to offer 24-hour driver phone support, and will provide each driver with a phone and pay for data usage (something Uber does not do).
The one big advantage for consumers is that Juno doesn't charge surge pricing, though it pays drivers more to pick up passengers in surge areas. The downside? There are fewer Juno drivers on the road because this service is so new, which often means slightly longer wait times for riders.
Tipping: Function not available in app yet, but you can tip in cash
While Curb isn't cheaper than its competition, it certainly wins in geographic coverage. Just about 50 percent of all taxis in NYC, including green cabs, are equipped to use Curb. (Technically, there are more Uber cars than taxis in NYC, but the number of actual trips taken by taxis is an order of magnitude greater.) Once a cab is hailed using Curb, its medallion light turns off, and the meter locks, so it isn't possible for the driver to pick up anyone else while en route to you. When you get in, you pair the app with a unique code assigned to the taxi. Payment is automatic. (The app Arro functions similarly.) You can book a taxi up to 24 hours in advance and request a special vehicle, such a wheelchair-accessible car.
Tipping: In app or in cash, whichever is preferred.
The Final Breakdown
A four-mile ride with Curb, Lyft, Uber, Juno, and Gett will cost approximately $20, though of course this price can vary based on traffic. During a rainstorm, or even a light drizzle, Uber will generally surge-price this same distance, increasing the cost to anywhere from 1.2 to 2.0 times that original $20. That means that you could be paying anywhere from $4 to $20 more for the same ride. In these situations, Curb, Gett, Via, and Juno will save you the huge hit to your wallet.
When going short distances, Curb, Lyft, Juno, and Gett are the most cost effective. Why? Because these car services factor in time as well as distance to their prices. The longer your ride, the further your dollar will be stretched. Overall, Via seems to be the most cost effective, especially when traveling long distances. A four-mile ride in a Via should cost around $5.95, an amount significantly lower than that of its competition.