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Car-sharing programs change dynamic of city driving

Lyft drivers are distinguished by a pink, fuzzy mustache placed on the front of their vehicle.

Lyft drivers can be identified by the pink mustache placed on the front of their vehicle. | Photo courtesy of Lyft

Wednesday, August 6 marked the beginning of a new breed of drivers — one that taxi drivers are claiming will steal their business. The city of Houston has now legalized the operation of ride-sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber. Uber and Lyft utilize smartphone apps in order to connect people in need of rides with interested and willing drivers, using the driver’s personal car. No taxi license, other than a standard driver’s license, is necessary.

“I think the concept of Uber and Lyft are good, but I personally feel that it would be creepy to have a random person, who doesn’t have a permit, to drive me around,” said advertising junior Shannon Collette.

Getting in the car with a stranger worries many critics of the programs (such as taxi drivers), especially due to the supposed lack of regulation with Uber and Lyft. However, safety measures are being put in place.

“I drive both (Uber and Lyft). I know I prefer folks up front,” driver Thomas Reis said. “We have to pass background checks and be under constant GPS monitoring, so you’re perfectly safe, and most of us love driving you around.”

Pricing is a big selling point for these apps (prices are listed below, taken from the Lyft and Uber websites).


Cost Minimum $5.00
Base Charge $1.26
Trust & Safety Fee $1.00
Cost per Mile $1.33
Cost Per Minute $0.17
Cancel Penalty $5.00

UBER ( Rates taken from uberX, the cheapest option available)

Cost Minimum $5.00
Base Charge $1.00
Trust & Safety Fee $1.00
Cost per Mile $1.10
Cost Per Minute $0.15
Cancel Penalty $6.00

According to frequent Lyft user Huan Pham, apps such as these are “much cheaper than taxi fares,” so what does this mean for students?

“Economically speaking, public transport is always going to be better in terms of cost. Personal cars are going to be better for convenience,” Pham said.

Yellow Cab Taxi rates

Flag Pull (entry) for the first 1/11 mile : $2.75
Each additional 1/11 mile : $0.20
Rate per mile after 1st mile : $2.20
Wait time per minute : $0.40
Wait time per hour : $24.00
Surcharge for trips originating from Bush Intercontinental Airport : $2.75
Surcharge for trips originating from Hobby Airport $1.25
Surcharge for trips that commence between 8:00pm and 6:00am $1.00

Some students are weary or afraid of using Metro and prefer getting rides from other sources.

“I obviously didn’t want to go in public transportation, but I mean, it saves gas,” said former UH student Dennise Barajas.

And that’s the kicker — cost. “Cost is the number one factor students consider when choosing transportation,” said UH Parking and Transportation Services Director Robert Browand.

UH currently offers CougarLine shuttles and the Zipcar service, but these are only for on-campus travelers. For commuters, Lyft and Uber could provide an alternative for students who don’t want to use the Metro buses.

“It’s a fun ride,” Pham said. “The drivers have always been super cool and nicer than taxi drivers. I remember one in particular who is an art teacher. She has little notes posted in her car saying how she drives for the service to pay for art supplies. One dude said he was from Hawaii and passed out Hawaiian candies to his passengers.”

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1 Comment

  • Uber and Lyft are more convenient and (in my experience) cheaper than taking a Yellow Cab in Houston. The drivers are always nice and have interesting stories. One driver had a cooler filled with sodas and water and candy in the trunk for his passengers. I am so happy Uber came to Houston!

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