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August 25, 2019

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Comparing the many rideshare options in Las Vegas

Uber

John Locher / AP

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, a driver waits to pick up passengers at an Uber and Lyft pickup area at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Nowadays, there are more options than ever when it comes to transportation. So we've created this guide to help you get from here to there.

The major competitors

UBER

Rideshare safety tips

There’s always a certain element of danger when getting into a car with a stranger. But you can alleviate the risk by following these tips:

1. Don’t assume the random vehicle driving up is the car you ordered. Some predators are pretending to be rideshare drivers in hopes of snaring unsuspecting passengers. To protect yourself, make sure that the info on the app [license plate, vehicle make and model] matches the driver picking you up.

2. Ask the driver the name of the person they’re picking up. Don’t volunteer your information or say, “Are you Joe?”

3. Stay aware of your surroundings, and follow the route on your own phone to make sure the car is taking you where you want to go.

4. Let a friend or family member know your travel plans so they can keep tabs on you.

Founded a decade ago, Uber Technologies is the big daddy of rideshare companies. It’s so prolific that the company name now doubles as both a verb and noun describing all rideshares, similar to how people say “Kleenex” instead of “tissues.”

Upside: It’s easy, convenient and reliable. Being prolific has its advantages, especially when you’re trying to catch a ride from the suburbs in the middle of the night.

Downside: Uber is famously controversial. Through the years, it’s made headlines for safety issues, flouting local laws, treatment of workers and more.

In the news: Amid driver strikes for low pay and poor treatment, Uber went public in early May. Echoing Lyft’s recent and disappointing initial public offering, Uber’s share prices tumbled. A recent Los Angeles Times headline called it a “car-wreck IPO.” The article states that because of stock market volatility, “Uber shares could start soaring at any time, or collapse further.” Now that both companies have gone public, MarketWatch predicts that rideshare charges will increase to please shareholders.

In a needed win for Uber, the National Labor Relations Board just determined Uber drivers to be contractors rather than employees, according to The New York Times.

Price: Cut-rate prices have allowed Uber to quickly vie for world domination. (Whether those investor-subsidized prices are sustainable is another matter.) As opposed to a running taxi meter, Uber sets an up-front trip cost tallied from a proprietary base rate, booking fee and surge pricing (if demand is high at that moment). Riders can tip in the app after the trip is complete. Variations on the typical ride (known as UberX) include a budget option (UberPool) and luxury options (Uber XL, UberSelect, UberBlack).

LYFT

Developed six years ago, Lyft is the Pepsi to Uber’s Coke. Many people consider it to be the slightly more ethical alternative to Uber, but since many drivers use both Uber and Lyft interchangeably, the jury is still out.

Just for fun

Pick Me Up: If you want the experience of rideshare without actually going anywhere, then this rideshare simulator is for you. This game, in which you pretend to be a rideshare driver, is the No. 1 racing game on Apple’s App store.

Upside: As part of its City Works initiative, Lyft launched a Grocery Access Program to offer discounted rides to grocery stores to help alleviate food deserts. Unfortunately, the program hasn’t yet rolled out in Las Vegas.

Downside: Lyft went public on March 29 with a valuation of more than $24 billion, according to Reuters. Its stock quickly fell, casting a pall over similar tech companies’ ability to succeed.

Local connection: In 2018, Lyft debuted its self- driving cars at CES, allowing intrepid riders to cruise from the Convention Center to various points on the Strip.

Price: Lyft’s website says it bases ride prices on “route, time of day, ride type, available drivers and current demand.” (Its version of surge pricing is called “Prime Time.”) Lyft’s calculation includes both estimated distance and travel time to account for traffic, whereas Uber only calculates mileage. Comparison shopping reveals Lyft to be a few pennies more expensive than Uber on typical rides.

TAXI CABS

It may seem like apps are taking over our world … until you see the taxi line outside any Strip casino on a Saturday night.

Comparison shop

Taxi Explorer: Punch in your starting point and destination, then the Taxi Explorer app will do the comparison shopping for you. In Las Vegas, it will show the prices of Uber, Lyft, Curb and taxis.

Upside: It’s still more convenient to catch a taxi from a casino or the airport than it is to use rideshare.

Downside: Taxis tend to be more expensive than rideshare.

App innovation: Taxis are keeping with the times via the Curb app, which allows you to hail a traditional taxi from your phone.

Price: By a significant margin, the O.G. of ride-hailing tends to be the most expensive non-luxury way to travel. For example, according to the A Cab Taxi website, it costs $2.76 per mile plus a $3.50 activation fee (and a $3 credit/debit fee) to ride in Las Vegas. Based on our calculations, it’s about $1.55 per mile cheaper to take a rideshare than a taxi, assuming surge pricing isn’t in effect.

The new kid on the block

Las Vegas is home base for an upcoming rideshare company: Tryp Technologies. The company is unique in how it pays drivers. Instead of taking a cut of every ride, drivers pay a flat $199 monthly fee and then keep 100 percent of the fare.

Carpooling

• WAZE CARPOOL: The map app that helps you avoid traffic jams and police speed traps has entered the rideshare business by helping facilitate actual shared rides. If you want to make extra money on your drive to work, you can simply use the original Waze app. If you want to catch a ride, then download Waze Carpool. The app allows drivers and riders to filter and connect based on star rating, profile, gender, distance, price and place of work.

• RTC RIDE MATCH: The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada offers a free Ride Match program, helping connect people with carpools, vanpools, transit and bike partners. While you’re at it, join Club Ride, the RTC’s incentive program to reduce driving for perks and rewards.

According to CEO Bob McNulty, the target launch date is June 15. The app will launch in a handful of flagship markets, such as Phoenix and Atlanta. McNulty hopes to debut the Vegas market in the next four months after that, once the model is finalized and perfected. “We like to think about ourselves as the hometown guys,” McNulty says. “Starting a real business like this in this market is exciting for us.”

McNulty has a retail background (he started shopping.com) and is using some of his marketing smarts to spread the word about the app. There’s a referral program that pays 40 cents every time a referred rider uses the app.

The focus in building Tryp has been about improving the driver experience.”We really do listen to drivers and strive to do a better job for drivers,” says McNulty, who hopes to recruit 7,000 Las Vegas drivers before launching here. “I don’t think we’ll have any trouble filling out markets to get the right amount of drivers to launch.” He says that through word-of-mouth, they’ve already signed about 30,000 individuals across the country.

Safety features include universal background checks for all drivers, car inspections, optional toddler seats in the cars and an emergency panic button that goes to either 911 or corporate officers, per the rider’s preference. Tipping and star ratings are built into the app, along with a feature called “Quiet Ride,” for when the passenger just wants to enjoy their “Tryp” in silence.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.