New Year’s Eve in New York City has been a mammoth affair ever since Adolph Ochs, then owner of the New York Times, rang in the 1908 New Year with a fireworks display and descending crystal ball. Now, millions of people flock to New Year’s celebrations across the country to laugh, drink, dance, and be merry with friends and family. These parties are spectacles to behold, but the influx of people presents a very real logistical problem: massive shortages of public transportation.
Luckily, the rise of on-demand ride-sharing services has made hailing a private sedan, SUV, or taxi a cinch — even in the hours leading up to and immediately following the New Year. But not all ride-hailing apps are created equal. Some have the advantage of volume, while others offer the best price, or superior technology. That’s why we’ve put together our list of favorite ride-sharing apps to get you safely home from your New Year’s Eve celebrations.
San Francisco-based Uber is by far the most popular ride-hailing service around. As of May 28, 2015, the company counted 160 million drivers across 58 countries and 300 cities worldwide among its ranks.
Uber’s pricing is fairly competitive on most days of the year, but things are a bit different on New Year’s Eve. The service’s variable surge pricing kicks in when demand hits a certain threshold, and those caught unawares are in for a nasty New Year’s surprise. If you’re unwilling to wait out peak hours between 12:30 and 2:30 a.m. and don’t mind sharing a ride with strangers, Uber provides a discounted carpooling option called uberPOOL to make the expense a little more digestible. And if you’ve got a larger group, the app lets you split the fare among passengers, regardless of whether you spring for Uber’s large sedan (uberXL), SUV (UberSUV), luxury car (Lux), and/or multiple mid-level cars.
Should you or one of the members of your party need it, Uber is one of the few on-demand services offering a disabled access option called UberASSIST. Select it in a supported city, and you’ll get a trained driver with a vehicle large enough to accommodate folding a scooter or folding weelchair. Read more here.
Lyft, the second-largest ride-hailing app by volume, offers transport in 65 U.S. cities including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Perhaps best known for the bright pink mustaches that once adorned the grills of its drivers’ cars, Lyft offers a range of vehicles to choose from, including average-sized Lyft autos and larger Lyft Plus cars.
Much like Uber, Lyft institutes demand-based pricing during the busiest hours. Unlike Uber, Lyft caps premiums at 400 percent. If that still sounds too rich for your blood, Lyft offers a carpooling service called Lyft Line, which lets you split fares between passengers if you opt for a larger private car.
Another small perk worth considering? Free Starbucks. In July, Lyft partnered with the coffee chain to offer riders loyalty points on their rewards cards. The promotion is still going strong, too, so if you need a pick me up on the ride home, you’re all set. Read more here.
Gett, the Israel-based ride-hailing app formerly known as GetTaxi, has a user base that pales in comparison to Uber and Lyft — it counts 35,000 drivers among its ranks globally, and only has a U.S. presence in New York City right now. Gett has a marked advantage when it comes to pricing, though: it never leverages a premium during busy hours.
Gett gets away with it by paying drivers a competitive minutely wage rather than a percentage of every fare, like Uber and Lyft. The company passes those savings on to riders. In New York, Gett caps fares between Houston Street and 72nd street at $15 plus tax and tip.
Curb is another ride-sharing underdog, but one that’s expanding aggressively — The service leverages a network of 35,000 taxis and 6,000 hired cars across U.S. 60 cities.
On a basic level, Curb works much in the same way as Uber and Lyft: Hail a driver, and you’ll be whisked away to your final destination. Uniquely, though, the service lets you schedule pickups ahead of time in some cities. Know you’ll need a ride after a long night of ringing in the New Year? Set a time and location, so that a Curb driver will await your arrival. That’s not the only benefit that Curb’s got on the ride-hailing competition. It never charges surge pricing, either.
But Curb’s far from perfect. ComputerWorld’s Jake Widman reports that Curb’s driver availability is often spotty, an assertion which a cursory glance at Curb’s App Store reviews would seem to confirm. That’s apparently thanks to the service’s heavy reliance on cab drivers, who are likely to find closer passengers on the way to your pickup location. Curb now disincentivizes drivers from skipping jobs by kicking them out of the reservation system temporarily, but it remains to be seen just how highly drivers value Curb’s ride-hailing network over others.
If you’re in New York City and don’t mind hitching a ride with a few other folks, Via’s worth considering. Co-founded by Stanford neuroscience Ph.D. Daniel Ramot, it uses a “logistics engine” to fill as many seats as possible in cars headed toward popular destinations. Unlike Uber or Lyft, the routes are static — you tell the service where you’d like to go, and you’ll be dropped off at a nearby location at some point along the way. It’s essentially a private bus service.
Static routes mean, of course, that you often have to walk a block or two to reach the pick-up location. On the upside, though, the seat-filling system doesn’t preclude you from bringing a pal or two — the app automatically finds cars with the necessary seating. Better yet, extra members in your party ride at half price.
Partying in Washington, D.C. this New Year’s Eve? You might want to give Split a shot. Split, a new ride-hailing service that launched in Washington this year, focuses on “smarter shared rides.” Basically, that translates to really cheap carpooling, with fares ranging from $2 to $8.
The service operates in much the same way as Via. About 50 SUVs traverse unchanging routes and leave from specified pickup destinations. You board with other Split passengers, and, depending on your final destination, ride the entire route or step off earlier.
Where Split’s arguably superior to its carpooling competitors is in its use of map data. By tapping D.C.’s database of crosswalks, construction sites, loading zones, and bike walks, it attempts to ensure that you’re never given an unrealistically far or dangerous pickup address.
It’s easy to dismiss Carma as yet another ride-sharing app, but the service is anything but conventional. It’s one of the few to spring from international shores — it was founded in Kinsale, Ireland in 2007 — and has an admirable mission: to reduce carbon emissions and congestion by minimizing the number of cars on the road during peak hours.
Carma, which has expanded to Bergen, Norway, San Francisco, and Austin in the past several years, operates in a novel way. Passengers, instead of paying drivers a premium for commutes, simply reimburse them for the cost of gas and maintenance. The company says that’s encouraged drivers to provide rides out of a sense of environmental responsibility rather than profit.
But Carma’s model places it at a marked disadvantage, too, especially on holidays such as New Year’s Eve. The service’s break-even pricing structure means most drivers are less likely to pursue its comparatively less lucrative pickups.
Bridj, a Boston-based ride-sharing app founded by Chicago and Washington, D.C. transportation department head Gabe Klein, supercharges the concept of crowdsourced busing established by Via, Split, and others. Instead of relying on a fleet of SUVs to transport waiting passengers, Bridj operates 14-seat luxury shuttles with Wi-Fi and leather seating.
Bridj differentiates itself in other ways, too. Routes are “tailored to meet the travel patterns of its customers,” Klein told the Washington Post, and the service’s algorithms try to keep the average pickup time under 10 minutes.
Rates are as low as $3 to $5, and you can book a Bridj ticket for a single day or entire week. It’s available in Boston and Washington, D.C., and runs limited service on New Year’s Eve, but not New Year’s Day.
Philly is home to more than the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, and cheesesteaks, believe it or not. Way2Ride, a ride-sharing service that launched in the City of Brotherly Love and New York City last year, is a network of cabs that lets you hail a ride from anywhere in the city. Indicate your pickup location and a taxi will theoretically arrive within minutes.
If Way2Ride sounds like Uber, Lyft, and every other ride-hailing app that’s come before it, that’s because it essentially is. Notably, though, Way2Ride doesn’t charge surge pricing — because it relies on licensed cabs for pickups and dropoffs, pricing is meter-based, plus a flat fee for hailing with the app.
Arro, much like Way2Ride, taps into a database of licensed taxis — 20,000, according to the company — for on-demand transportation. It’s available in New York City, and works like Uber, Lyft, and the myriad of other well-established ride-sharing services. Confirm your location and a driver will arrive to pick you up.
Arro’s reliance on cabs means that it, like Way2Ride, doesn’t charge surge pricing. Fares are based on taxi meters. Arro says that unlike other taxi-hailing apps, its service is much more reliable — pickup requests are sent to drivers through dedicated data terminals on cabs rather than drivers’ smartphones.
If you’re lucky enough to be celebrating New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, you’ve got countless services to choose from when it comes to nabbing a ride to or from the festivities, but Redwood City-based Flywheel asserts that its system is the most reliable of the bunch. Like Way2Fare and Arro, it recruits cab drivers to ferry users from place to place, but aims to replace traditional the taxi meters in its cars with “TaxiOS,” its proprietary smartphone-based system for handling payments and pickup requests.
TaxiOS is in limited beta, but Flywheel says the underlying technology extends to its fleet of “thousands” of cabs. You can summon a cab from anywhere in the city, for example, and pay fares with your smartphone. Flywheel also lets you offer a bigger tip as incentive during periods of high demand, a feature the company touts as a voluntary replacement for surge premiums.