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Ride Sharing: Tips for Maximizing your Travel Experience

October 1, 2016 | Leave a Comment

by Kathy Austin, CVA

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Uber car in downtown Chicago

You are getting into a stranger’s car. You wonder … am I going to get to my destination?  Am I going for a joy ride to somewhere over the rainbow?  Who is this person anyway?

I’ve been using Uber on a pretty regular basis for the last several months.  I’d like to share some of the finer points of using a ride sharing service – including what to do if things don’t go exactly according to plan.  I hope these tips will help ensure you have a pleasant experience.


The Pick Up

If you are at home for your pick up, it’s pretty obvious when a car pulls up and your app has notified you that your ride has arrived.  However, I always make sure I know the driver’s name so I can call out to make sure it is the right person.  This also helps with breaking the ice and establishing a rapport with your driver.

Since I’m riding with my guide dog, I usually have to ask the driver to pull up the front passenger seat to make room for him to sit on the floor in the back seat.  Most drivers have never picked up anyone with a guide dog, so my explanation of where the dog will sit eases any anxiety the driver may have about a dog in his car.  If it is a nasty day – snow, slush, etc. — I would recommend bringing along a towel just in case you need to do a little clean up job.

Another note if you are traveling with your guide dog.  While Uber has made great strides to ensure individuals who use service animals are not discriminated against, I don’t share that information in my profile or tell the driver in advance.  I feel this runs the risk of a driver cancelling on me and if I’m in a hurry, I don’t want to wait for another pick up.  I’ve only had one problem — see my blog post on Second Opinions dated May 16, 2016.  You can read about the affirmative steps Uber has taken on a blog post by Disability Rights Advocates.


The Ride

When I get in the car I usually like to chat up the driver with the usual small talk – weather and so forth.  I have found that asking the driver how long he’s been driving for the company and how he likes it are good questions to open the lines of communication.  This tactic seems to make the driver at ease and I always end up learning something, too.  I have even discovered that a couple of the drivers are neighbors and find out their kids know my kids!

I am usually using Uber to get to the train that takes me downtown.  There are a myriad number of ways to get to the station but since I’ve lived in my town for too many years to count, I know the fastest way to get there.  Sometimes the GPS gives a route that is not efficient — running into more traffic and unfriendly stop lights.  I will usually tell the driver I’m trying to make a train and would he mind if I tell him the fastest way to get there?  This not only saves time, but money too!  My son gave me this tip and it works every time. If you know your route, tell your driver.


The Return

If your return pick up puts you at a place where there are lots of people and cars, like a medical office, grocery store or other busy place, knowing what type of car the driver is using isn’t always helpful.  Even if I could see, I’m not a car person and can’t tell a Chevy from a Toyota.  When I am notified the driver has arrived, I usually tap the “trip options” button and call the driver.  I let him know where I am, perhaps what I’m wearing and that I have a guide dog.  This strategy has worked fine.  If other people are waiting, you might ask them to help you identify your driver’s car.


The Rating

This brings me to the end of the ride and rating your driver.  Since I travel with a guide dog, I feel this deserves an extra pat on the back.  Unless there were any issues, I always give my drivers a rating of 5, the highest rating.  I have only given a lesser rating twice – once to a driver who didn’t want to take my guide and another time where the driver was just not good.  I gave the second driver a 4 rating and noted in the comments what went wrong.  In addition to giving your driver a number rating, you can also check off particular areas where service was superior or where improvement was needed.  These categories include car cleanliness, navigation, etc.  When I noted what went wrong in the comments section — on both occasions — I received a $5 credit on my next ride.  Uber also emailed an apology from a real person.  I highly recommend you use these feedback options!

While I have only used Uber and can’t speak for Lyft drivers, my experience has been awesome.  Uber is super responsive and professional.  I’ve been able to get to places without having to inconvenience friends or family.

I know for some, this transportation option is a bit expensive.  However, the assurance that someone will be there when you need them will heighten your sense of independence.  Even if a ride sharing app is too expensive for you to use on a regular basis, I’d would recommend putting it on your phone in case of an emergency, when you must get to someplace either in a hurry or if you have no other options.

Safe travels!

Kathy is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense.

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