What started as an idea to save gas by filling empty seats has turned into a popular industry for people worldwide to make a little extra cash. So how do ride sharing apps work, and how well have they done since arriving in Maine?
For customers, rides haring has been billed as an inexpensive way to find a quick ride. For employees, it’s considered a way to earn some extra money at your own pace. And since coming to the greater Bangor area in 2016, ride sharing has caught the attention of many people.
“Payment is all handled within the app so you don’t have to worry about carrying cash on you and it’s a very simple, easy transportation option that people use for all sorts of services,” said Scott Coriell, communications manager of Lyft.
The services are used by installing the apps on your smart phone and adding your credit card information. When you are ready to go, the user enters their pickup location and destination. A nearby driver will see the request and choose to take the ride.
Ride sharing company, Uber, began operating in Bangor in March of last year. A second company, Lyft, arrived just a few months ago. We spoke with one driver who works for both. She asked that she remain anonymous but did tell us why she thinks ride sharing has become so popular.
“I love when everybody’s in a good mood, and the music’s pumping, and I know I’m getting them somewhere safely, but we’re having fun at the same time,” said the driver. “It’s less expensive, it’s paid for automatically through the app so you don’t have to worry about fumbling with cash and cards. And we generally get to the customer a lot faster than a taxi will. I hear all the time that taxi’s will tell them 30 or 45 minute wait whereas we’re usually five or six minutes away.”
Coriell told us that the cheap and customer-friendly business model has not only been helpful for people looking for a ride; they believe industry is also helping to boost local economies.
“We did a study of our twenty markets that we operate in and found that drivers had made 1.5 billion dollars in earnings and that included over 200 million dollars in tips.”
“Specifically, we saw that in 20 of our markets, 750 million dollars in additional spending to local economies was attributed to that because people are going out more and staying out more.”
In Maine, local businesses are trying to expand on the idea.
“You never want to be left behind while you’re trying to develop the technology to keep up with what’s new.”
The local app is called Close Ride, and it launched Monday. Majority Share Owner James Gallant says it will localize and improve the ride sharing concept by including both taxis and independent drivers.
“It’s also going to get you the closest ride and tell you what’s going on in your local area at all the different bars, establishments, down at the Cross Insurance Center, or at the Water Front Concert, wherever it may be.”
“We’re going to take ride sharing, taxi cabs, and Friday and Saturday night information, and fuse it all in to one.”
But customers aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of these apps. Many ride sharing companies tell their drivers that working for them is an excellent side job.
“About 80% of our drivers drive fewer than 20 hours a week and most of them have full-time jobs,” said Coriell
To become an employee, a driver must apply either through an app or online. They are then subjected to various background checks. Our driver explained the process.
“It probably took about a week once I signed up to be approved and we had to send in copies of our license and registration, insurance, and they did federal background checks and they check your driving history.”
With the fares being lower, drivers often say the job doesn’t pay much, but the freedom to work whenever they choose can make it an ideal second source of income.
“Being able to sign on and off whenever I want to is very important to us,” said the driver.
In part two of this series, we look at some of the problems ride-sharing brings for drivers, customers, and competition.