Ride sharing apps are expanding, making waves

Janice Bitters

Need a Ride? There's an app for that. Several internet-based ride services have popped up over the last several years, which allow users to request a ride via their smart phones, but have some traditional taxi drivers concerned.

In Minneapolis, riders can use Uber, which allows passengers to use their smart phones to request luxury town cars driven by professional drivers. Uber riders are charged on their credit cards and the cost is based on the time it takes to get to their destination as well as distance.

However, other smart phone ride-summoning services such as SideCar and Lyft are expanding rapidly, mostly in San Francisco and New York, but also other U.S. cities. SideCar is located any place that registered drivers are located, but Lyft  primarily operates in California.

SideCar and Lyft describe themselves as “community ridesharing platforms,” which is different from taxi services, or Uber. Their services employ drivers who use their own vehicles, provided they meet the company’s specifications.

In order to drive for SideCar and Lyft, applicants must pass a background check and interview process, their car must be a 2000 or newer and in good working order, according to both SideCar and Lyft’s websites.

One unique feature about SideCar and Lyft is that after each ride, passengers are asked for a voluntary donation. The amount requested is based on what others paid for similar trips. The companies take a 20 percent cut and the drivers are left with the rest, according to the Associated Press.

Taxi drivers say the new services are not legal because they don't have permits, or pay city fees. In addition, these smart phone-enabled services are taking business away from traditional cab services, according to the AP.

Uber has been sued by San Francisco cab drivers and Chicago car-service companies who say that they are operating an unfair business.

The California Public Utilities Commission issued cease-and-desist orders and fines to all three car internet service companies. However, in January, the agency reached agreements with Lyft and Uber so they may operate until new rules are written, according to the AP.