Get A Ride Anywhere - New Options for Older Adults
Written By: Jim Schrempp. Last Updated: Aug 11 2019 - 9:32am.
This article is about some exciting new alternatives that make getting from point A to point B by car much easier than in the past for those who don't want to, or are not able to, just jump in their own car.
New alternatives for getting around are especially important for older adults, who have many reasons to be out and about but frequently prefer not to drive. Sometimes this is because they no longer drive at night. Sometimes, because they just don't own a car. Until recently, these older adults were dependent on taxis or expensive professional car services, or the kindness of others.
New Internet Options to Summon a Car
The grocery store, lunch out, going to church, a doctor or dentist, or a night at the theater; there are often times when you need someone to drive you somewhere. In the past the only real option was to take a taxi. In the big city you can step on the street and hail a cab. What about those of us in the suburbs? We have always had to call a cab company. The taxi dispatcher would say, “we’ll have a cab to you in twenty minutes.” Often the “twenty minutes” might become an hour wait. How many times have you sat at home thinking, "where is that darn cab?"
The Internet has changed all this. First, you no longer have to telephone a taxi company. Now you can use what is called a rideshare app to hail a ride from an application on your smart phone. Second, you don't have to wonder where your driver might be. With GPS in every car, your smart phone can show you exactly where your driver is, which way he is driving to get to you, and receive updated arrival times. Third, the Internet has allowed the emergence of an entirely new type of transportation company - the TNC.
What’s a TNC?
The newest transportation company doesn't own any cars and doesn't employ any drivers. Instead they act as an intermediary to arrange a ride and handle the payment. These Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) match up people who need rides with people who will drive them – for a price. The companies recruit ordinary people to become drivers and the companies provide some insurance to protect the rider in the event of an accident. TNCs compete with regulated taxi companies by using the Internet and smart phones to provide a better user experience for commercial transportation. The dominant players in this new field are Lyft and Uber.
A third player, Flywheel, is working to bring this same Internet enabled experience to traditional taxi cab companies. Flywheel acts an an intermediary between you, the rider, and the taxi cab company. Taxi companies that sign up with Flywheel make their cabs GPS enabled and agree to let Flywheel do the work of a traditional taxi dispatcher.
How Do These Ride Sharing Services Compare?
In our testing Uber and Lyft had comparable results. In both the city and the suburbs Uber and Lyft had cars within 10 minutes of our test locations. On the other hand, we had very mixed results with Flywheel. In some areas of San Francisco, Flywheel had lots of cabs available; other areas of the city had none. And in the suburbs Flywheel really let us down - if any cabs were available, they were often 20 minutes or more away.
Which to Use?
Both Uber and Lyft provide essentially the same service. There is a difference in corporate culture with Uber being more traditional and Lyft being more avant-garde. As you might expect in a fiercely competitive, win-lose market, there has been a lot of mud slinging between these two companies, but that hasn't seemed to affect the service to you, the end user.
In our analysis Uber is the best fit for an older adult who needs a ride. However, either service will work for you. The detailed analysis behind our recommendation is available to you by clicking here to read our more detailed rideshare app comparison.
While our analyst team decided they liked Uber best, and many of our Longevity Explorers agree with them, there is a sizable minority of our Longevity Explorers who are not really comfortable with the idea of hopping in a private car. They prefer Flywheeel, since the car that arrives is a conventional taxi.
The Bottom Line
Arranging a ride is now as easy as tap-tap-tapping on your smart phone. Once you have a ride arranged you can watch the driver come to you and know that the driver will really show up when expected.
Hands on Guide: How to use Uber
We found in our Longevity Explorer sessions that many of the members were interested in a hands on guide to downloading the Uber App, setting it up, and using it. So we put together a series of short videos that will walk you through setting up, then using Uber on your smart phone, step-by-step.
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Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions
from janice (unverified) at Jun 13 2019 - 4:53pm
I have run into a problem with transportation. I will be going into the hosp. for cataracts surg. and was told I must have someone to drive me home and stay with me. I don't have anyone to do this. I checked with the local console on aging and they told me they could not help. I am 66, a retired RN, I live alone and I drive. Uber and Lyft while available will not be accepted by the hospital. I have read on line that this is a problem for others who are alone. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
from Dick Smallwood (unverified) at Feb 13 2016 - 4:33pm
Hi Richard & Jim,
I enjoyed the piece about Uber and Lyft in your recent newsletter and have recommended it to several villagers.
But I have a question: Would it be possible for some one with a tablet (e.g., iPad) and a simple non-smart cellphone to use either service? It seems to me that it should be possible if the tablet is hooked up to a wi-fi. She could use the tablet to communicate with the central office of Uber/Lyft and then use the cellphone to talk to the driver. I know that both systems use text messaging, but that doesn't seem to me to be essential to the service.
I notice, by the way, that your article implies at the end that the Uber app can be downloaded to tablets.
I ask this question because many seniors have a tablet and a simple cellphone rather than a smartphone, but could really use a transportation system like Uber/Lyft.
from Justin Boogaard (unverified) at Jul 24 2016 - 1:43pm
Hi Dick! Check out GoGoGrandparent.com it's a service that let's older adults use Uber and Lyft from a phone call - no smartphone, app, tablet or Internet required.
from Richard-Caro (member) at Feb 13 2016 - 4:35pm
I looked into this a bit more and chatted with Jim Schrempp, the author of the article. I only researched this for Uber but I would be surprised if the situation was different for Lyft.
First of all, you can definitely download the Uber App on your smartphone OR your iPad. I am guessing it will work also on Android tablets but did not check. I have it running now on both my iPhone and my (old) iPad.
The way the App works, all communication is via the App. You never really “talk” to the driver until they appear. So actually you dont really need a phone of any sort. You can do it all via the tablet.
The big issue of course is that the tablet needs to be connected to the Internet. If you have cell connection to the tablet then it will work everywhere and you can get a ride from home or on the street.
If the tablet only has WiFi then it will work just fine so long as you are on WiFi. So at home you could easily set up the Uber ride and summon it and it would ping you on the tablet when the ride appears at the curb.
The issue might be the return trip. You would need to pop into Starbucks or something and connect to WiFi before you could summon the Uber ride to take you home again. You cant just summon them from the street corner if there is no WiFi at the street corner and you dont have a cell connection on the tablet.
I dont think the concept of “calling” the Uber driver on an old fashioned phone works. I believe they are set up to get called via the Uber App.
Does this all make sense? Let me know if you have questions.
from Dick Smallwood (unverified) at Feb 13 2016 - 4:44pm
Thanks, Richard. It all makes good sense.
However, when I was googling this topic I found two people who had received a message from Lyft saying that Lyft relies on text messages between driver and passenger and that it won't work otherwise. So that might be a difference between Uber and Lyft.
I guess the next step is to try to Uber from a tablet with no smartphone and see how it works. The problem with wi-fi access is probably a showstopper anyway, but it will be interesting to see if it does work w/o a smartphone.
Thanks very much for researching this question. The Village is setting up a committee to investigate alternative transportation schemes for seniors and this will be very useful information.
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