California, PA

Getting a Lyft in the Bay Area Isn't Easy

Roz Warren

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I was at my hotel in Lafayette California. I needed to be at my son’s house, just ten minutes away, by two.

No problem. Just call a Lyft. Right?

Not so fast.

At 1:30, I asked for a Lyft to pick me up at the Lafayette Park Hotel. The app informed me that Manny would be there at 1:45. Great! I went down to the lobby to wait.

At 1:40 I was told that Manny had bailed, but that Henry would arrive at 2:00.

Okay, so I’m going to be late. I can cope. 

At 1:50, I was told that Henry was out of the picture — but Jack would pick me up at 2:15.

Now It’s 2:12 and I’ve just been informed that Enrique is finishing up a ride and will be here by 2:30.

It’s lucky that I’m heading over to play with my grandchildren and not rushing to the airport to catch a flight. It’s okay if I get there a little late.

The problem is that this may well happen next week, when I AM trying to get to the airport on time.

Before the pandemic, it took just a few minutes to get a Lyft anywhere in the Bay area. I could zip between Lafayette and Walnut Creek, or between Alamo and San Ramon, in no time. These days, although the ride itself is still quick and easy, finding a driver can be a challenge.

I often have to wait for up to 40 minutes, while driver after driver accepts the ride and then vanishes.

I’ve even tried calling a cab. And it showed up quickly. But it cost twice as much as a Lyft would have — and the driver wasn’t wearing his mask over his nose. But at least I got there.

Recently, Lyft kept me cooling my heels at my cousin’s home in Alamo for 40 minutes, promising me that one driver and then another would soon arrive, before finally telling me the truth: “No drivers are currently available in your area. Please try again later.”

Luckily, my cousin offered to drive me to my destination in his TESLA.

And while arriving in a TESLA is definitely arriving in style, my friends and family shouldn’t have to drive me around when I visit. I wish I could depend on Lyft to get me there on time, as I used to do.

So what’s the problem?

I’m told by the Bay Area Lyft drivers I’ve chatted with that that once COVID came into the picture, far fewer people wanted to risk sitting in a small enclosed space with a series of strangers all day. Plus, travel to the Bay Area decreased so much, resulting in fewer people wanting rides, that a lot of folks stopped driving Lyft and moved on. They just couldn’t make enough money behind the wheel.

I know one former Uber driver who is now happily taking care of a one-year-old baby instead of driving all day. He’s found that caretaking is something he enjoys and is good at. And? Taking care of a baby is a lot less wear and tear on his car.

When it’s time for be to catch my flight home,? There’s no way I’m trusting Lyft to get me to the airport on time. Instead, I’ll take BART. It’ll be a long ride, but I’ll be spending that time on the train heading toward my destination, and not anxiously waiting for a Lyft that never comes.

So what can you do if you’re planning on a trip to San Francisco and you want to get around? You could rent a car, although rental cars aren’t cheap these days. You could buy yourself a Clipper Card and learn to get around via BART.

Or you could just decide to call a Lyft, be patient and tell yourself that good things come to those who wait.

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

Bala Cynwyd, PA
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