News

Carstache Interrupts Taxi Service

August 12, 2012

As I drove over the Bay Bridge and passed into the city…

As I drove over the Bay Bridge and passed into the city on a recent Friday afternoon, I faced a crisis of will. Was I truly willing to attach a hot pink Carstache—which is precisely what it sounds like—to the grill of my black Toyota in the name of journalism?

I pulled onto Harrison Street, into a section of the SoMa (South of Market, San Francisco’s startup hub) district that’s full of new high-rise residential buildings. I stepped out into the summer afternoon, opened my trunk, and whipped out the ridiculously large but definitely distinctive Carstache. I walked to the front of my car and did the deed. Carstache affixed. Now I was set to begin my first work shift.

Last week, I completed my orientation and training as a driver for Lyft. It’s the new service from Zimride, a ride-sharing website started back in 2007. Lyft launched in limited form back in late May. Its goal? To connect drivers and passengers through the company’s free iPhone app. In essence, it’s a social, tech-driven way to compete with taxis (notoriously difficult to find in San Francisco). Think AirBnB—another local startup that lets people worldwide rent out their extra rooms, apartments, homes, teepees, and yurts—but for cars.

Lyft isn’t the only company offering this type of service; the similar SideCar just launched in June. So over the last two weeks, I became a registered driver on both sites. And I’m one of the first. I’m fairly certain at the time of this article, I’m one of the first 50 drivers on Lyft and one of the first 100 drivers on SideCar. In effect, I’ve begun moonlighting as a very part-time not-quite-taxi driver.

With Carstache in place, I spent 90 minutes tooling around various neighborhoods. Mission District, Potrero Hill, North Beach, the Financial District—all without seeing a single request (and worrying often that the Carstache might fall off). Finally I got the first signal. My first pickup was only five minutes away. As soon as I accepted the mission, I rolled from the Financial District back down into SoMa to pick up a guy named Matt. In his user icon, he appeared to be hugging an original Macintosh. Matt also had a perfect 5.0 customer rating. I liked him already.

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