DOUBLE SHIFT: Steven Law drives for both Uber and Lyft.
SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Uber, Lyft at starting line
Missouri has officially handed the keys to Uber and Lyft.
Though Uber hit the streets of Springfield on Nov. 17 after the passage of a special city ordinance, concern still held around the outcome of ride-hailing services in Missouri. But concerns faded Jan. 26, when the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill regulating transportation network companies through insurance coverage, background checks, vehicle inspection and age requirements. On that same morning, Lyft re-entered the state via Springfield after exiting Missouri in 2014 following a lawsuit in St. Louis.
With two months on the streets in Springfield for Uber and about two weeks for Lyft, the ride-hailing apps are competing head-to-head in the Queen City.
Through Uber, over 500 drivers have been hired for at least one trip and over 10,000 riders have taken a trip in Springfield. While just getting started locally, Lyft officials did not disclose comparative numbers.
To recruit drivers for a new city, Lyft uses online advertising and Craigslist and leverages its existing community of 315,000 current drivers for referrals, said Jaime Raczka, head of emerging markets and expansion for Lyft. She declined to disclose why Lyft chose to enter Springfield over other Missouri cities.
Uber has over 160,000 drivers nationwide, and it’s currently facing a $20 million lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading drivers by making false claims about earnings and its vehicle-financing program.
Steven Law drives for both Lyft and Uber. The-51-year old contracted with Uber on Dec. 27 and with Lyft on Jan. 28.
“I travel a lot and I use Uber when I travel,” he said. “They have been a really convenient source of travel when you don’t have a source of travel.”
Law decided to give it a try and see if the time invested was worth the payout. He applied online and within a couple days was approved to drive.
“On New Year’s Eve it proved to be very lucrative, and I thought to myself, ‘This is perfect because I work when I want to. Nobody tells me when I work,’” Law said. “If I’m tired and I want to take a nap, I can take a nap. I just go offline.”
Since joining, Law has given over 400 rides with Uber and about nine with Lyft. With Uber he drives 25-30 hours a week and averages between $600 and $750.
Uber’s average fare in town is less than $15, and the average estimated time of arrival is under 5 minutes, according to a news release. Law said 10 percent of what he makes goes toward gasoline.
Deb Davis, 53, joined Uber on Jan. 21 and recently started with Lyft. She’s only driven for Uber so far.
“I was looking for something very, very part time to be able to make a little extra cash and pay some bills down,” Davis said. “This was very flexible and that’s what I like, because my real job I work quite a lot of hours.”
Davis worked about 10 hours for Uber, giving about 20 rides and making about $280.
Working full time as a software consultant, Davis makes herself available on lunch breaks when nothing else is scheduled. She’ll turn on her app to see if anyone needs a ride.
Officials with the ride-hailing services say drivers range from part-time working mothers to college students helping pay for tuition.
For Davis, it’s about supplemental income. Law, on the other hand, works the ride-hailing scene as a way to make an income.
He is an author and has had six historical novels published, the most popular being “Yuma Gold.” Law said because of the decrease in demand for historical novels, he is transitioning to crime thrillers.
With the genre change comes a lack of income. Law’s publisher, Penguin Random House, won’t give him an advance because he has never written a crime thriller. Now, he has flexible hours to invest time and energy on his new book. He plans to work as much as he can throughout February, and when he feels financially stable, he’ll take some time off to write his book.
Though Uber holds the advantage of hitting the Springfield market before Lyft, the two services offer very similar services. Both operate via an app, give about 75 percent of sales to the driver, can’t operate on airport property if a ride isn’t already active and offer tipping as an option for riders.
Lyft’s Raczka said there is enough room for both Lyft and Uber in Springfield due to the university populations, commuters and those who spend evenings out drinking. Law said more than half of his riders are people who don’t want to drink and drive.
Davis said though both apps are user-friendly, she will probably stick with Uber because she doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of managing two apps.
Law said a perk of Lyft is that it allows pickups in Ozark and Nixa, whereas Uber only allows pickups within Greene County. Both allow drop-offs outside of Greene County – for Uber as long as the ride started in the county. Lyft also provides riders with the option to book multistop and roundtrips when they book; Uber doesn’t.
“What I’ve learned about Lyft so far is that it’s, for the Springfield market, more rider friendly,” Law said. “I think that if it catches on here, it will be great.”