The development of ridesharing applications and companies innovate and improve the field of transportation every day. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about ridesharing services for seniors.
How does ridesharing work?
Unlike taxi or cab services, ridesharing services primarily operate through applications on smartphones. Drivers sign up to give rides to clients, meeting various training and automobile specifications. (For example, most cars used by ridesharing drivers are newer than fifteen years old, which means they often come with safety features standard and use less gas per mile of driving.) Users download the app onto their smartphone, input the information about your trip (pickup and drop-off location, as well as a credit card for payment), and send the request. Drivers will accept or decline the fare based on proximity and arrive at the pickup point as soon as possible. Once the ride is complete, users can offer feedback in the form of a star rating and/or comments. The apps are typically free since the companies take a fee from the cost of each ride.
Are Ridesharing Services Safe?
The answer to that question is vital for every caregiver and senior. The truth is that it depends on the service and the specific driver. Although some reports have surfaced of drivers committing abuses or even violence against their clients, most drivers are perfectly safe. Some services vet and train their drivers more strictly, however, and it is always better to go with higher security than lower when it comes to your loved one’s safety.
How Does Ridesharing Cost?
Costs vary widely across location, time of day, distance, and overall level of service. In an average city, going only a few miles during low-demand times, rides may cost as little as five dollars. During peak times, traveling great distances, or for monthly services, costs may be higher, coming closer to fifty dollars a ride (or a month for services). Essentially, for ridesharing services, the more people in a given area request a ride, the higher the base price gets. More requests for rides create “surges” in pricing and demand, doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling the price for a ride per mile. Budgeting for unexpected rises in prices when using a pay-by-ride service is a good bet, since you cannot always predict when demands might change and raise prices drastically.
You should also know (and let your loved one know) that, for many ridesharing services, tips are expected on top of basic fees. Particularly for the most common ridesharing services, such as Uber or Lyft, tips are not mandatory but are considered typical, particularly for difficult routes. However, tipping a driver is often less than tipping for service at a restaurant. Consider a fifteen percent tip for excellent service, and tip no less than two dollars. (Particularly for Uber and Lyft, these tips often make up the majority of the drivers’ profit.)
My loved one doesn’t have a smartphone. How can they access ridesharing services?
There are several services that allow a caregiver to use their smartphone to summon ridesharing services (and even track the cars as they go) when they are not physically with a person in their care. Changing the pickup address to where the senior is located and informing them of the type of car to search for will get them connected to a driver, and the smartphone app will track the car as it delivers your loved one to their destination. You can also use a computer to call for a ride or schedule a car service, depending on the specific agency. In addition to the above options, services exist which allow seniors to call from a traditional cell phone or landline and reach a driver.
Can’t I just use public transportation?
Absolutely. Many cities with public transportation offer low-cost or free ride services for seniors, and will even allow for extra stops or special buses for those with mobility challenges. This differs by the city, though, so the best source of information for the costs and services available are the local public transportation authorities and agencies. (Centers or Agencies on Aging and the local Department of Veterans Affairs also frequently have this information.) City buses commonly feature specific seats to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and many buses can “kneel” closer to the ground or sidewalk so that it is easier to step on and off the bus. Inquire about these safety features and, if possible, take a few rides yourself to look for possible safety hazards on subway or bus entrances and exits.
What are some limits of ridesharing services?
Ridesharing services are, more often than not, well-liked by users. The problem with getting and using ridesharing services is not whether or not they work, but whether or not you have access to them. Seniors and caregivers living in rural areas far from cities might find that ridesharing is expensive or impossible to get since there simply are not enough drivers in their area. When considering transportation options for your loved one, do research on what services are typically available near you.
What if my loved one needs help getting in and out of a vehicle? Will rideshare drivers help?
A good driver will always help a client. Particularly if your loved one can communicate their physical assistance needs clearly, drivers will happily open doors, handle baggage safely, and help your loved one exit the car. Services specific to seniors or those with disabilities also offer a higher level of service in this area. You can also access senior- or disability-specific services from larger companies, such as UberAssist, through their app.
What about regularly scheduled trips, such as a weekly visit to the grocery store or a monthly doctor’s office visit?
Ridesharing apps tend to be used for more spontaneous trips. Other services are better for regular trips for more regular fees since they rely on call-ahead scheduling to secure a ride.
Ranking the Options
This ranking is done primarily by customizability to needs and cost, with the information listed below each option.
Although both Uber and Lyft tend to have wide reach for ridesharing services, Lyft tops the list for two main reasons: driver safety and customizability. Drivers for Lyft are more strictly vetted before they can begin driving than those for Lyft, which means that riders are that much safer when they get into the car. In addition, Lyft allows for tips through the app, which means that it is easier for riders to demand more and pay for more assistance. For example, if your loved one needs help from their front door to the car, they can properly reward a Lyft driver for that extra service, essentially incentivizing a higher level of service.
Uber has a few features which bring it to number two. The first is availability; Uber is the most famous name in ridesharing, essentially branding itself into the word for a rideshare use, no matter the specific service. They are a highly innovative company, even offering self-driving cars in some cities, which are programmed to be extremely cautious drivers. (They are currently in the beta stage, however, so do not expect self-driving cars each time you order an Uber ride.) Lyft and Uber have both partnered with the National TransMed Network, aiming to help seniors travel to their doctors specifically.
SilverRide is a service specifically tailored toward providing safe rides to seniors. This service is extremely inclusive and safe, with rigorous driver safety standards and a high level of service. The reason it doesn’t take number one on the list? SilverRide’s reach is not as extensive as Uber or Lyft, operating in the Bay Area of California. You must also notify drivers at least 24 hours ahead of time, making more spontaneous trips difficult or impossible. However, SilverRide has some excellent features seniors and caregivers can appreciate: door-to-door service, a fifteen-minute window for arrival times, and senior-specific training for drivers. (Ask other seniors and senior-related businesses and agencies for services like SilverRide in your area!)
4) GoGo Grandparent
Similarly to SilverRide, GoGo Grandparent offers excellent and varied services at a relatively low cost for seniors. They make deliveries, provide transportation, and generally support independence for seniors with a bank account or credit card and a home phone. Seniors can schedule a pickup in advance and rely on a safe, prompt trip to and from any destination.