I finally signed up for Lyft earlier this month so I would have yet another transportation option available to me in San Francisco, especially when Uber is in a surge pricing period. They gave me some free credit to get started, so I decided to take a couple of free rides tonight before the credits expired.

Signing up was easy. I didn’t like having to log in with Facebook as apps can do nasty things with that, but I figured I would have heard by now if Lyft did anything spammy. The Facebook requirement did prevent me from signing up for Lyft quite a few times in the past, though.

Requesting my ride was also easy. Just like Uber, it picked up my location automatically, I could adjust it if necessary, it told how long it will take for a driver to arrive, and requesting a ride was as easy as tapping a button. The request UI is actually more intuitive than Uber’s with the big “Request Lyft” button.

One of the nice features that set Lyft apart from Uber is that after requesting a ride, I could enter my destination while the driver was en route. That helped to get things going a little faster once I got in the car, and it was also nice to be able to type it in myself rather than having a driver transcribe what I said into a GPS system. Like Uber, it doesn’t look like drivers are required to use any particular navigation app. The first driver used Apple Maps, which gave somewhat confusing directions at a complicated intersection, and the second driver tried to use Google Maps, but was unable to get that to work either. I’m all too aware that we (technology makers) still have a lot of work to do when it comes to making products less difficult to use.

For both rides, I sat in the front as is the custom with Lyft, but neither driver offered a fist bump, and neither vehicle was equipped with a pink mustache. From what I’ve heard from other riders, the quirky fist bumping stuff doesn’t really happen anymore, and I think that’s fine. The experience was basically the same as uberX; I would guess that they attract a similar set of drivers.

After the ride, I got confused by the app. I knew that Lyft had a tipping feature, but I was unable to quickly figure it out as I was walking into a restaurant, and accidentally skipped the tip completely on my first ride. To add a tip, you have to tap on the payment method and go to a second screen. If you simply rate the driver, it will not give the option to add a tip. I was able to tip the driver later by emailing Lyft support, which had a fast response time of six minutes at 10 P.M. on a Tuesday. Of course my overall feedback on this aspect is that there shouldn’t be any tipping at all. That’s what I love about Uber. I’m more than happy to pay the extra amount (I’m a 20% & round up to the nearest dollar tipper), but it should be in the standard rate. That way the drivers always know what to expect in terms of income, and the passengers don’t have to worry about being too cheap or giving away money unnecessarily.

Overall, it was not a bad experience. It’d be great if they could get rid of tipping (I’d accept a rate increase in exchange), and a fare estimator within the app would be nice as well. uberX is still my on-demand car service of choice due to its no tipping policy and higher availability, but Lyft is a decent alternative.

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