Monday, June 27 , 2016, 3:54 am | Fog/Mist 62º

  • Follow Noozhawk on LinkedIn
  • Follow Noozhawk on Pinterest
  • Follow Noozhawk on YouTube
 
 
 
 

Business

Santa Barbara Appears to Be Embracing Mobile Ride-Sharing Services

Local taxi companies lament car services that use part-time, self-employed drivers, but newcomers seem to be expanding the marketplace

Turns out folks traveling around Santa Barbara do like summoning rides using smartphone apps and credit cards.

Santa Barbara’s tech-savvy population has seemingly embraced the taxi-on-demand nature of ride-sharing services such as Uber and LYFT, the latest company — recognizable by its pink mustache-wearing cars — to use cell phones and maps to connect riders with the closest drivers.

Passengers pay a flat or pre-determined rate, touted as cheaper than regular cabs, and can split the cost on multiple credit cards, the only form of payment accepted.

No running meters or tips are involved.

Uber launched locally in October and has grown so popular that this month the company added a fare to the Santa Ynez Valley, with plans to soon expand to Ventura and San Luis Obispo, said Andy Iro, a UC Santa Barbara graduate and local Uber manager.

Uber, which first launched in San Francisco in 2009, hires independent contractors to transport up to four passengers in the drivers’ own pre-inspected cars — an UberX or slightly more expensive black-car option.

LYFT operates in a similar way, except its prearranged-ride platform calculates fares based on a mix of time and distance.

A service of the still-young startup Zimride, LYFT arrived in Santa Barbara in late February, billing itself as a social “your friend with a car” experience, said Katie Dally, a company spokeswoman.

“In addition to the trademark pink mustache on the grilles of drivers’ cars, which acts as a great ice breaker during rides, Lyft passengers are invited to sit in the front seat, charge their phones, choose the music and connect with another member of the community while they travel around town,” Dally said.

LYFT serves streets in more than 30 cities nationwide, about the same number Uber boasted worldwide at the end of last year.

That number hits 100 this month, Iro said.

“The response to Uber in Santa Barbara has gotten global recognition, in terms of how well it’s doing,” he said. “I will say, ultimately, we are looking at expanding literally everywhere. We wouldn’t be doing that if there wasn’t enough demand.”

Meanwhile, traditional cabbies continue logging fruitless complaints about the new services with the City of Santa Barbara and the police department.

Sgt. Riley Harwood said all grievances must be filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the transportation network companies and requires that each obtain an operating permit — but not for individual drivers.

Traditional taxi company owners secure a business license from the city, and all drivers need costly permits and meters in their cars.

The state PUC has laid out special rules for the new cars, which include a no-hail policy that cabbies say is ignored.

Police have better things to do than to enforce the regulations, which is why new cars are breaking rules, said Sue Morris, operations director of Santa Barbara Yellow Cab.

She said those cars can charge more during peak times, and they don’t offer the same safety guaranteed by long-standing local operators.

“I’m all for free enterprise,” Morris said. “But why would anyone who works with a taxi company go through paying so much when they can just go out there and basically work for free?”

LYFT and Uber won’t share how many drivers each employs, but Iro hinted that popularity has the company putting out calls for more.

“I think LYFT is purely about this fun community-based experience,” Iro said. “We try to focus on the overall experience, meaning price and luxury. Even though Uber is cheaper, I think the cars are a lot nicer, and all drivers are encouraged to give their own feel.”

Dally noted that LYFT recently reduced its prices by up to 20 percent in all markets, including Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >