RideSpider: Gift-A-Ride

Many have experienced the catch .22 that is early-life employment. The difficulty of finding a way back and forth to work before you can fully afford the expenses that come with a vehicle. Unless their parents are feeling extra generous, this complication marks a critical turning point for most teenagers on their way into adulthood. That’s what it should remain- a turning point. In modern society, a vehicle is almost as critical as a roof over your head and food in your stomach. Gone are the days of easily-accessible, livable employment. A five to ten mile commute to work each day is a blessing, considering that the average American commute is 27 minutes one way. For those who cannot afford reliable transportation, they’re stuck with what they can get- either public transit or walking. Outside of a major metropolitan area, employment for someone without a vehicle to becomes exponentially more difficult to find. Given that most people over the age of 25 have other responsibilities, be that bills, debt or a family, working a minimum-wage job to “get a car” is an untenable situation. Simply put, it isn’t possible. This concern applies to a labelled demographic; the working poor.

Nichole Keyes’ story, a 28-year old single mother of three children mirrors those of many other throughout the United States. Lacking transportation, Keyes still works- if she didn’t, there would be no way for her family to survive. Walking miles to access public transportation, and sleeping unhealthily little just to get by, Keyes doesn’t have the financial or employment stability to even think of preparing for her children’s future. Public transit infrastructure in the United States either doesn’t exist, or is lacking severely. In Keyes’ case, her work is too far from the city limits to receive transit service, and she has little other choice. Working anywhere else, something like the customer service sector, simply doesn’t pay enough to keep a family alive. Many young folk are beginning their lives adrift in this demographic, buried beneath an eternal avalanche of fate-cast paradoxes. The only way to get a job good enough to afford reliable transportation, is to often have that transportation in the first place.

The Federal Transit Administration undertook the task of studying these disadvantaged populations in February of 2013, concluding that affordable transit was one of two factors limiting the working poor from climbing out of the economic stagnation that they’ve been dropped into.The first factor affecting the working poor is that more often than not, affordable housing is located well away from most places of work. This further complicates acquiring employment for those who do not have reliable transportation- the second factor. A lack of transportation to and from work often leads to a further stratification. The working poor pose a major demographic that has only been growing in size, a demographic that is further increasing the United States’ income inequality. The worst access to public transit often mirrors the lowest income districts in metropolitan areas, according to The Atlantic.

According to a study done by Raj Chett and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University, transportation and the ability to be geographically mobile has major implications about the financial mobility of a demographic as well. According to the study, commutes and commuting zones, which can be extended by easy access to transportation, have a major causal effect on intergenerational economic mobility as well. If the parents of a child are classified as working poor, it is more than likely that the child’s future mirrors that of their parents, or perhaps even worse.

The United States’ lackluster infrastructure and the growing working poor demographic poses a major threat to both the future of countless people and the economic growth of our country. The question is, if governments are just now taking the situation seriously, what can the private sector do? Ridesharing costs are often just as expensive as taxis in larger urban areas, and the distances required in rural regions leads to hikes in cost as well. How can the working poor afford to utilize private-sector transportation in order to alleviate their economic situation? Gift-A-Ride is RideSpider’s answer.

Helping our community is our goal. RideSpider hopes to affect change in the areas in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee through the Start Some Good foundation. By raising a fund for the working poor, RideSpider can ensure that easy and affordable transportation is offered to those that cannot afford it. In raising money by which we can pay our drivers, RideSpider opens up an entirely new world of accessibility for the working poor. If the first campaign is successful, opening avenues for greater expansion of support for the working poor is a definite goal for the company.

Our campaign, Gift-A-Ride opens on Wednesday, the 16th of October. The more support that we receive means the more publicity and help that those in dire economic straits can receive. RideSpider vows to help.

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Corporate Common Sense – RideSpider Has It.

Image Courtesy of HotelInsider

Recently, individuals and corporations alike have been unable to escape what some might consider to be a growing specter, a specific kind of lawsuit. A sort of lawsuit that really only attaches itself to those who fail to abide by good moral conduct, and those who care more for their bottom line than the safety, health and security of their customers and employees. What is this growing specter, fed ever onwards by a fundamental shift in our culture? People, men and women alike, are speaking up against sexual assault, physical and verbal, more than they ever have before. Ironically, despite empathy towards a victim being human nature, let alone common sense, it seems that many companies just don’t get the message.

As it stands, both Uber and Lyft have had serious sexual assault lawsuits levied against them. It isn’t that the leadership of either company have directly assaulted or caused direct harm to any one of their customers, but that their lack of care for those customers’ security, has. I’d like us to consider this as the title suggests, ‘Corporate Common Sense.’

Attorney Laurel Simes, a partner of a San Francisco firm which is representing a number of female plaintiffs in Lyft’s most recent suit states that “… this is out of control. [Sic] And this needs to stop.” (NPR) Simes claims that in mere days, they have received over 150 telephone calls from women who have been assaulted or verbally abused by rideshare drivers. The raw numbers are staggering, and the greater horror arises when facing the allegation that Lyft has known about these sort of attacks for years, and chosen to do nothing about it.

Michael Bomberger, whose firm has filed against Lyft in the name of fourteen women who fell victim to rape and assault while using the ridesharing service believes that, “… If the public knew the true number of sexual assaults by ride-share drivers, women might not ever ride with these companies again.” (NPR) Alison Turkos, a victim, shares her chilling story on The Verge after a Lyft driver kidnapped her at gunpoint and then forced himself onto her along with three other men- “What should have been a 15 minute drive, turned into an 80 minute living nightmare,” Turkos said. Worse still, Uber’s response utterly disregarded the physical and emotional abuse that Turkos suffered. In her statement, Turkos revealed that, “Lyft apologized for the inconvenience that I’d been through and informed me they​‘appreciated ‘the voice of their customers and were committed to doing their best in giving me the support that I needed.’ However, to my utter shock, Lyft informed me that I would still be expected to pay for the original estimated cost of my ride and I would be ‘unpaired’ from the driver in the future — I’d later learn he remained a Lyft driver.” (TheVerge) The New York Police Department confirmed the presence of foreign bodily fluids on Turkos’ clothing.

Uber faces similar lawsuits, albeit on a much smaller scale. The main question that rises to the forefront is why would such companies treat their corporate lifeblood, the riders, as if they were merely a source of profit and job security? This isn’t a question that I, despite my digging into the source of the lawsuits, can answer. Nonetheless, we here at RideSpider have an answer of our own.

Based on rider questionnaires and the overwhelming push to ensure that our riders will never be subject to such horrors, we have and are taking steps to prevent it. Female riders may, if they deem it necessary, request that they are only paired with female drivers- ensuring that anyone who feels their physical safety may be at risk has the opportunity to rectify that. Additionally, our already stringent policy of driver vetting ensures that only the best and safest drivers can serve with RideSpider, and that our signature rooftop QR-Code cab light matches our drivers specifically. Further steps, such as admitting our drivers’ to a fingerprinting and records database, and shifting our designation to a community-supportive B-Corporation will be coming in the future.

Our motto at RideSpider is “Happy Drivers, Happy Riders” for a reason. The safety and wellbeing of both our drivers and our riders is paramount. RideSpider will never sacrifice the safety and wellbeing of a valued individual for the sake of profit or face.

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The Surge – Not a 1990’s Soft Drink

Image courtesy of ReadUnwritten.com

Surge pricing is familiar to nearly everyone involved in the ridesharing industry. It may also be a familiar term to those who work for either brick-and-mortar taxi services, or service industries like hotels and theaters. The concept of surge pricing is not a new thing, and the theoretical concept isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the saying goes, execution never goes according to plan. In the case of major rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, it is unknown if the execution of surge prices went awry, or went directly according to their plan.

For those less knowledgeable, surge pricing was a concept developed early on in the service industry, providing higher costs or payouts in certain regions, offsetting the volume of customers in that area. For taxi services and rideshare services, the surge price process was meant to provide a higher incentive for drivers to pick up riders in the region. It is a simple equation backed by the economic concept of supply and demand. As supply increases, costs decrease- as supply decreases, costs increase. In the case of ridesharing and TNCs, the supply is the driver- a service which the consumer pays for. While this would make sense from a marketing standpoint, it does not make much sense for the driver. Especially given the issue where drivers are not always receiving the increased fare. Uber’s own description of the surge pricing presents a complicated and not necessarily fair system for granting drivers their increased share.

It is equally unfair for the passengers, as they are given the choice between paying more- likely to the company, not their driver- or just not accepting a ride at all. When Uber and Lyft, companies that both utilize surge pricing, are market dominators- the customer is left with little choice except to pay an increased price. Sometimes this price is drastically higher, and according to an interview done by ABC News, drivers are expected to be making $800 to $1000 less per month due to the surge pricing.

Surge pricing, while on paper, makes sense economically- it is increasingly obvious that the major ridesharing services tend to use surges to produce more income, while providing drivers with a false sense of increased profit. In some cases, the cost of an Uber can jump from a mere $12 for a reasonable trip, to $47 for the same trip a few hours later. The driver’s share of this cost however, is not multiplied by nearly four. The system is seen as little more than a money grab, and to even the layman, it is. Basic economics supports the idea of surge pricing, yet- such a system only makes sense if the drivers truly are being given a stimulus to operate in the surged region. Instead, they are given a false sense of increased income- on paper, it comes out to far less. While the customers do have a ‘greater access’ to drivers, the absurd cost does not make it reasonable. At times the surge pricing may increase up to eight or nine times the original cost of the fare. The driver however, does not see eight or nine times an increase in per-ride profit.

Because of this, RideSpider perceives Uber and Lyft’s method of surge pricing as being economically immoral, both to the rider (customer) and driver (employee). As such, we promise to never subject our drivers or our riders to unannounced fluctuations in pricing. What a rider pays mid-afternoon on a Tuesday is what they’ll pay on late-evening on a Friday.

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The Pursuit of Growth and its Curse.

Souce, The Motley Fool via Getty Images.

Ridesharing startups are nothing new. Since the first boom in Uber’s popularity, numerous companies have sought to follow in the rideshare giant’s footsteps. One, Lyft, was successful- acquiring similar numbers in today’s economic warzone. Along the way however, there are littered the corpses of numerous companies, some more successful than others. What then allowed Uber and Lyft to become so successful, where others failed? The most astute reader might claim that it was the principle of firsts. Uber and Lyft came first, and thus the market share was easily dominated by the two. The principle of firsts isn’t always correct- and in this case I propose that it was not the rapid closure of the market share by TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) like Uber and Lyft, but rather a mismanagement of a precarious balance. That balance manifests in corporate growth, and with growth comes a curse.

According to CB Insights via Business Insider, 29% of startups fail due to having ran out of the funds necessary to keep their business afloat. A staggering 42% fail due to the concept of ‘No Market Need.’ For the sake of this article, despite possibly reducing the scientific validity of the thesis, the market need of rideshare and TNCs will be ignored. The recent floundering of Uber and Lyft bring question to the stability of the rideshare market, and such- perhaps the next few years may prove to be the breeding ground of numerous successful TNCs.

Image courtesy of CB Insights via Business Insider

Only 19% of the startups queried in CB Insights’ study failed due to out-competition. In the present environment it seems the most logical to investigate the elusive ‘running out of cash’ option. Uber and Lyft are anti-competitive, as far as they are permitted under the United States’ economic management laws. Though, only the startup Sidecar claims direct interference by the market giants as the reason that they failed. Though, as detailed in an article by Forbes, it was competition that led to their failure, but competition backed by “capital disadvantage”, according to Sidecar CEO, Sunil Paul. Sidecar is significant as it was one of the most successful and early competitors of Uber and Lyft. Sidecar possessed an initial startup fund of $10 million, raised via Union Square Ventures, Avalon Ventures, Google Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. In total, their funding and profits amounted to roughly $35 million by their shut-down in 2015. Compared to Uber and Lyft’s $7+ billion in combined funding and earnings, this number is miniscule at best.

Sidecar was not initially in an economic disadvantage though. UberCab, the original company name of Uber, started in California after Travis Kalanick sold his startup, RedSwoosh to Akamai for $23 million. Some of this was utilized as primary funding for Uber, being co-founded with Ryan Graves- although additional funds were sourced. Surely Sidecar’s $10 million, while less than half of what Uber initially had from co-sources, should have been enough, right? Perhaps yes, had Sidecar not sought to engage in directly competitive markets. Sidecar was founded in San Francisco, immediately being engaged in lawsuits from the California Public Utilities Commission in 2012, a conglomerate of legal issues which led to the classification, Transportation Network Company in 2013. Sidecar also sought to begin operations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Austin in 2013. By this time, Uber had already expanded throughout the United States, everywhere that Sidecar sought.

It’s obvious- large cities are the most marketable and profitable locations for ridesharing companies, right? Wrong. Sidecar’s mistake was immediately expanding into areas that were directly competitive. Of course, this rapid expansion was sought in order to build the profitability of the startup. It was a race, a race that they could not win. Economically, Uber and Lyft were far more capable of rapid expansion than Sidecar could ever hope to be. Startups are, from the start, going to be less capable of expansion than a large, pre-established company. This is especially true of modern startups, entering a market already saturated. How then, do they succeed? Other startup rideshare companies such as Split, began with $12.5 million, Bridj with $11 million, yet these too, end in failure. Failures which exhibit the same process- rapid expansion which forces them into direct competition with the long-standing economic juggernauts. Uber can easily lose a billion dollars to crush competition- a startup cannot.

RideSpider seeks to find out. By forging a company along the precarious balance, expansion must be sacrificed for stability and community. Loyalty to customers, steady and sustainable expansion is the only way to be competitive with larger, established TNCs. Currently, RideSpider has little in the way of immediate funding, and perhaps it is this frugal outlook for longevity, rather than a race to the top, that is necessary for a startup to succeed. As the old folktale goes, slow and steady wins the race.

By Dennis Kerley IV, Executive Assistant, RideSpider Inc.

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Ride-Sharing; Entrepreneur’s Dream or Innovative Nightmare?

GettyImages via USNews.

Ridesharing companies, a recent market development in the economic timescale, have been hailed as being innovative to the core. With the creation of Uber and Lyft in 2009 and 2012 respectively, an outrageously profitable new market was born. Speculations as to the future of large companies aside, it cannot be denied that the ride-sharing market will remain. Whether the future of ridesharing is a market choked by the competition of giants, or a swarm of startup companies competing with one another, it will undoubtedly be a future filled with new innovations. With those innovations however come problems.

Safety, security, and the avoidance of lawsuits climb to the top in the eyes of corporate management. This isn’t to say that safety and security isn’t in the minds of the customers, either. Many possible riders are afraid of the implications of using these ride-sharing services due to possible, and very real threats to their person and livelihood. On the 6th of June, the New York Post ran a story about how a Lyft driver vandalized a San Diego couple’s home after a very drunk passenger vomited in the driver’s vehicle. Sure, the prospect of a passenger erupting in your back-seat would put any driver on-edge, but such a risk is par for the course. These sorts of scenarios are not common, but leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who reads the driver-related horror stories. The security of riders are paramount to the success of the ride-sharing industry, perhaps more so than the profitability of the industry itself.

Kango, a ridesharing startup ran by Sara Schaer, seeks to solve this security issue in regards to utilizing ride-sharing services for children. Debuted in an article by WIRED Magazine, Schaer’s Kango, as well as other startups targeted towards minors, requires intensive background checks and driver vetting, before allowing them to take up the role. It isn’t to say that larger companies do not take precautions when ferrying around a parent’s precious cargo- but do they go far enough? Many states, especially larger ones such as California and New York, often have incredibly stringent rules on the transportation of minors, including enrollment in state fingerprint databases. Shuddle, a 2016 startup targeting minors and parents failed to get off the ground after spending its’ $12.2 million in funding.

Balancing safety and profitability is a steep slope. Uber and Lyft, the most profitable and largest slice of the ride-sharing market have on numerous occasions been publicly called-out by their drivers for focusing too much on corporate profit, and not the safety of their driver base. Drivers have received as little as 30% of their fare, according to Entrepreneur, leading drivers to resort to sleeping in their vehicles in order to make ends meet. Ridesharing is not limited to being a part-time income, and many drivers take the possibilities very seriously, even making it a career- reminiscent of the career taxi services prior to the advent of ridesharing. The challenge of the market is making the two meet- safety and profitability. What makes the rideshare market an innovative nightmare is just that. Despite the success of Uber and Lyft, the market is still in its infancy. Startups and giants alike do, and will continue to struggle with the precarious balance between the goals.

RideSpider presents itself as a model which intends to make that balance work. The security of riders is ensured through detailed background-checking of drivers, and the profitability of both the drivers and RideSpider is ensured by the set fare-costs and profit share of the drivers. A correct business model involves the belief that customers, and employees comes first.

Join RideSpider today by clicking on our Riders’ or Drivers’ waiver forms.

By Dennis Kerley IV, Executive Assistant, RideSpider Inc.

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Be on the lookout!

Be on the lookout for these lights in Chattanooga, TN. For the safety of our riders and drivers we provide assurances of who our drivers are. Each light is equipped with a scan-able QR code that links back to the drivers information.

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Welcome To RideSpider’s Blog

Hello and welcome to the RideSpider rideshare blog

My partners and I will be regularly posting articles here to keep you informed about RideSpider and our thoughts on events and news in the ride-share industry.

I am proud to announce that we have give our first ride to a customer, it was our honor to serve Willie!

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