Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Sally Deneen and Josephine Tamayo Murray some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

Why taxi when you can SideCar?

A new ridesharing app gives cabs a run for their money.
Sidebar option of the SideCar app

Sidebar option of the SideCar app

Marcell Marias, a musician and artist, is one of the SideCar drivers who joined to earn some money during the weekends.

Marcell Marias, a musician and artist, is one of the SideCar drivers who joined to earn some money during the weekends.

With swift driver response and positive testimonials from SideCar app users, the app is changing the landscape of transportation in Seattle

With swift driver response and positive testimonials from SideCar app users, the app is changing the landscape of transportation in Seattle

Through the app, SideCar creates opportunities of people from different backgrounds who're looking for that extra cash.

Through the app, SideCar creates opportunities of people from different backgrounds who're looking for that extra cash.

Eleven p.m. on a Friday night and there weren't any cabs available. Typical. Twenty minutes passed until an irritable taxi dispatcher explained that my ride wouldn’t arrive for another 30 minutes. That's when a friend introduced me to SideCar, an alternative ride app that lets strangers catch paid rides from other strangers.

My first SideCar experience was seamless — it took just a minute to request a ride and, less than ten minutes later, I received a friendly call from our driver saying that he had arrived at our pick-up location. A picture of the driver and his car was posted on the app, which helped me easily identify his car in the street. The trip didn’t feel any different from riding in the back of a friend’s car — it was clean, the ride was smooth and our driver was very nice.

SideCar originated in San Francisco and started servicing Seattleites in November. Though Alex LaChance, City Manager for SideCar Seattle, wouldn't say how many users the service has in Seattle or how many drivers they'd approved yet, she did say that, "SideCar has matched over 100,000 shared rides total." 

It's natural to be skeptical of the app — a stranger picking you up in a random car? It sounds like a bad idea. But two months and over ten rides later, I’m not the only Seattleite hooked on the taxi-alternative.

“SideCar is the most cost efficient method that is timely. It’s safe because of the screening process drivers go through and most of all, it’s enjoyable because drivers are rated just like passengers are and therefore, it behooves everyone involved to enjoy one another’s company,” explained app user Kevin Durkin.

LaChance explained that SideCar goes through a ten step vetting process — a full background and driving check, interviews and in-person trainings — before people can become authorized drivers.

“To make sure the cars are safe, we have applicants submit photos as well as the make, model and year of the car. Our team reviews each car individually to make sure that it meets SideCar standards,” added LaChance.

Making money, without the boss

Most drivers are like Marcell Marias, a musician and artist, who became a SideCar driver to earn some extra cash on the weekends. “It’s independent employment — I can make my own hours," Marias explains. "The flexibility of being an independent agent is a major aspect of it. I’m my own boss… and I like it!”

“80 percent [of the suggested donation] goes to the driver…so for me it’s good extra money,” he says.

SideCar drivers in new markets, like Seattle, can also commit to certain schedules in return for a $15 per hour wage guarantee. “For me it’s working out… it is a legit way to make money and it’s what I have to do,” added Marias. 

Trouble with transportation innovation

Not everyone is happy with SideCar, however. In November, the California Public Utilities Commission issued the service a $20,000 fine for not having required state permits.

“We are simply a platform that connects drivers with riders. They are not employees of SideCar in any way. Our legal team and board are in negotiations to get a new agreement with CPUC, but I haven’t heard of any issues in Seattle. Seattle seems to be backing community ridesharing,” explained LaChance. 

In Marias’ experience, “urban twenty-something” Seattleites living in Ballard, Fremont and sometimes the University District request the most rides, with the main destination being Capitol Hill. However, Marias said most neighborhoods in Seattle are well serviced.

“When I open the app at the beginning of the night I see a good spread of SideCars from up north down to the SODO neighborhoods, with cars ready to give people rides. Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., everyone’s trying to get home from the bars so it may be hard to get a ride from Capitol Hill then. But we congregate there at the end of the night, because we know most of the people who are using SideCar are there,” explained Marias.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 1:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Jessica, ask them to show you the insurance.Philadelphia and Austin won't let them work and the reason isn't because God loves taxis.

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 1:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Marcell, call your insurance and tell them what you're doing. Be sitting down when they reply.

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 7:29 a.m. Inappropriate

"an irritable taxi dispatcher explained that my ride wouldn’t arrive for another 30 minutes. That's when a friend introduced me to SideCar, an alternative ride app that lets strangers catch paid rides from other strangers."

So you are saying you ordered a cab, and then ordered sidecar, and took the first one to arrive?

I wonder why the dispatcher was irritable?

Consider that it is your behavior which causes the lack of cabs, as they go to orders which are not there?

Ask your sidecar driver what they feel about this, it happens to them too!

MrFrench

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 8:11 a.m. Inappropriate

I wonder what the rates are for Sidecars versus regular cabs? But I certainly see need for such a service as there are not enough taxis in this city to meet the demand. Some parts of the city go virtually cabless--requiring waits of at least an hour--on weekend nights (I've found this to be the case in West Seattle, for example). In such circumstances, it is only natural that alternative means of public transportation will arise. I just hope the same government restrictions and bad policies that hold down the number of cabs in this town and/or maintain excessive rates won't get in the way of the alternatives.

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 9:30 a.m. Inappropriate

SideCar is one of several transportation options, and it's good to see that the service is now available in Seattle. See my recent Crosscut article about Car2Go, Zipcar, Uber, and other more-or-less commercial car-sharing services: http://crosscut.com/2013/01/14/transportation/112478/sharing-economy-ronald/

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 3:59 p.m. Inappropriate

At some point if this service continues, demand, esp. at peak hours, will start to exceed supply and the same entitled souls who get cranky about waiting for a cab for 30 minutes on a Friday night will get fed up again. The snotty tone of this article makes me think that the writer imagines that the cab companies are somehow conspiring to spoil her weekend night of partying. As far as those who complain that there are not enough cabs in Seattle, I'm sure most of them don't recall when we had unlimited entry for a few years, which did nothing but ruin service, and drive a lot of good people out of the business altogether. Get a grip...waiting 20 or 30 minutes to go from one party/bar to another is not going to kill you anyway.

TaylorB1

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 7:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I happen to completely disagree with the post above, @TaylorB1.

I think the author did a wonderful job shedding light on an awesome service that could benefit so many of us Seattleites. It's not about 20 or 30 minutes waiting for a cab to the next bar that's going to kill, it's waiting 20 or 30 minutes in the pouring rain for a cab at 3 am when you desperately need to get home. I think SideCar is a really efficient alternative that will allow young 20-somethings to get home sooner and more cost effectively while also providing people like Marcell an extra job on the weekends.

A well-written and honest article, thanks Jessica!

nats711

Posted Sat, Mar 16, 6:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Properly licensed taxi's are required to carry a specific type of liability insurance at limits that usuakky far exceed the usual minimum insurance requirements for regular vehicles. There drivers are also licensed and background checked by local police departments and the vehicles are inspected by police departments and have to meet certain standards.

If someone was involved in an accident during one of these "shared rides" for money and the drivers insurance company found out that you had paid for the ride they would deny your claim and you would have no recourse. operating a vehicle for hire with regular passenger vehicle insurance is fraud and specifically prohibited by insurance companies. They take a substantial greater risk when insuring vehicles for hire that is why it can cost upwards of $10,000.00 a year to insure a taxi versus a few hundred dollars to insure a regular passenger vehicle.

Posted Sun, Dec 15, 10:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Sean. You're exactly right. Every driver who drives for Sidecar is committing insurance fraud plain and simple. If the author is pursuing a degree in journalism, she should have been a tad bit curious about this question rather than writing a fluff promotion piece promoting these phone apps. Perhaps she could have called State Farm or All State and asked them what the rates are for commercial car insurance vs. commercial driving insurance.

In essence, Sidecar is nothing more than taxi service with an App based dispatch service. The revolutionary aspect of the service is that they are encouraging all of their drivers to commit insurance fraud, while underpaying them to take this extra risk.

There is going to be a huge wake up call when the first Sidecar driver gets into a serious accident and one of their passengers gets seriously injured or killed.

Posted Wed, Dec 18, 4:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Hailo is a phone app that lets you hail a cab. It's just not in Seattle. The company is based in NYC but also offers service in other U.S. cities, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, as well as Toronto and Montréal in Canada.

https://www.hailocab.com/nyc#

Does this mean taxis are not just 'car sharing services' as well and thus they can quit buying expensive commercial insurance?

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »