All I have to do is tap my iPhone and seven minutes later, my three housemates and I are piling into a stranger’s black Toyota Camry en route to a dinner reservation in downtown Los Angeles. The scene may seem strange to the average bystander, but with the rise of ride-sharing applications like Uber and Lyft in lieu of taxis, this occurrence is commonplace for twenty-somethings going for a night on the town.
With low fares, friendly drivers and speedy, convenient service, Uber and Lyft are revolutionizing the college experience for undergraduates in the greater L.A. area.
For the average student without a car, Los Angeles is lacking in viable public transportation options. In fact, with the price of gas, insurance and parking in Los Angeles continuing to rise, Uber and Lyft are becoming a more attractive option for Angelenos than the hassle of owning a car.
Jill Hennessy, clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, commented on millennials’ apprehensive attitudes toward buying cars in an NPR editorial.
“While they do still want to own a car … they are thinking about, ‘Do I need a car or not?’ in a way that I think five years ago or 10 years ago we wouldn’t have seen to the same extent,” Hennessey said.
Services such as Uber and Lyft have inverted the social scene at Occidental and caused students to be more itinerant. With the rise of ride-sharing services, Occidental students can venture out of Eagle Rock and explore what L.A. has to offer in an affordable way.
Hadley Sachs (senior) has been ride sharing as a means to explore Los Angeles nightlife.
“I use Uber whenever I’m going somewhere with people and it’s the type of situation where a designated driver would normally be needed,” Sachs said. “Uber streamlines the process of ordering a ride and splitting the cost with your friends.”
The ride-sharing movement is not only making private cars a thing of the past, but also making taxis obsolete. Currently, riding in an Uber in L.A. is 1.7 times cheaper than riding in a taxi and can also be easily used in conjunction with trains and subways, sparking a renewed interest in public transportation in Los Angeles.
Occidental is tucked into a quiet neighborhood in northeast L.A. and on-campus housing requirements mean students often become complacent in the campus bubble. Slowly, ride sharing is changing this attitude, allowing students to reap the benefits of living in a large city that are sometimes forgotten. Nick McHugh (senior) lives off campus and argues that the Occidental social scene is shifting in light of current on-campus restrictions and the rise of ride-sharing services.
“Considering the severe lack of relevant on-campus programming and the crack down on off-campus residents, Uber is great for students to get off campus and enjoy their college experience,” McHugh said.
Long gone are the days where Occidental students had to wait upwards of 20 minutes for a yellow cab to pick them up at the fountain. The affordable trips that Uber and Lyft allow are a novelty that simply was not practical for students in L.A. before ride-sharing appeared.
The benefits are not limited to social life; students can now obtain internships in neighborhoods like Silicon Beach in the westside or Hollywood in central L.A., which used to be near impossible to reach without owning a car. Even Los Angeles International Airport, previously an $80 cab ride away, can now be reached for a mere $20 with Lyft Line.
With intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, it is easy for anyone to link their credit card to Uber or Lyft’s applications and be on their way. And while Uber and Lyft continue in their free-market battle for dominance in the realm of private transportation, ride-sharing prices overall will continue to drop. To the penniless college student, this is good news.
As Uber and Lyft continue to gain popularity in Los Angeles, the sight of Occidental students piling into an anonymous sedan will become more and more common. Ride sharing is not just replacing taxis, it is popularizing a social movement, allowing young people to actually experience the city.