The mustache

This is Brian, the Lyft dribrian-the-lyft-driver-on-new-years-day-2017ver who saved the Neapolitan ice cream (my brother’s only request of me for our New Year’s dinner) after I missed the 75 coming back into town and I stood at the bus stop facing a whole 39 minutes of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream melting in my grocery bag in the unseasonably warm weather.

The glaciers are also melting. I do not own a car and I am a public transit advocate, partly for the sake of us humans sticking around on this planet and I believe that the evidence shows that for-profit, unregulated “ridesharing” is actually increasing traffic congestion and pollution, exploiting workers, and making mockery of many good laws that protect public safety. And yes, the title of this blog is “Buses Are Bridges.”

But the ice cream had to be saved.

Lyft today emailed me celebrating the fact that I have broken down and called them 21 times over the past year for a grand total of 144 miles of travel in 2016. Of course each time I also told myself I was doing primary source research on ridesharing, while never once stooping to calling on Uber, the robber-baron bully of ridesharing that rolls over public safety, liability, and  civil rights laws, pays a tiny proportion of its fair share of taxes, and slings around its billions to subvert democracy across the globe. And right here at home, helped along by our own Mayor Peduto.

Brian says he drives for Lyft for extra money on top of his full time job – he thinks it would be very hard to make a living ridesharing because of all the attendant costs of maintaining a car, insurance, gas, etc. He won’t drive for Uber and says almost every other rideshare driver he’s talked to far prefers Lyft. He thinks they offer a fairer share of the profits, are easier to work with, and he very much appreciates that they include tipping in the app payment prompts.

All he said pretty much accorded with what I’d heard from 17 out of the other 20 Lyft drivers I had talked to over the course of 2016, most of whom also drove for Uber because they were indeed trying to make a living at ridesharing and had to work for both companies to be able to rack up enough trips to make a living share of the profits of what they are told is their own business. Brian said he had been told the same thing.

“Yeah, but do you set your own rates? Can you change anything about how your business is actually run?”

“Well, no. But I do set my own hours. Which helps.”

And no doubt, Brian had helped me by showing up within minutes. No doubt ridesharing technology is very cool, very helpful, very much a critical piece of the multimodal puzzle that we have to fit together – but, yes, together. As exemplified by a wide range of law-abiding, technologically innovative carsharing and carpooling services, many of which allow neighbors to actually carpool with neighbors or actually share their cars when they aren’t being used such as Getaround, BlablaCars , Sidecar, Zipcar, and Trees For Cars. There are also innovative, responsible private-public partnerships that have demonstrated accountability to the taxpayers that help to pay for them and a commitment to equitable pricing and access for low-income and disabled passengers, such as City CarShare and Carma.

And which don’t exploit drivers – or replace humans with robots with which we have no mammalian connection of empathy and for whom we need feel no inconvenient responsibility.

When we got to my brother’s place and I asked if I could take Brian’s picture, he said, “wait!” and spent a little bit of time curling up both sides of his mustache and shaping the points.

“The mustache is the most important thing,” my fellow furbearing mammal said.

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About helengerhardt1

Helen Gerhardt: Pittsburgher, writer, member of the Commission on Human Relations: nothing written at this blog reflects the views or positions of the Commission.

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