Uber & Lyft may be the best inventions of the 21st century

By Kevin Canessa Jr.

I’ve said it before and will continue to believe it — two of the greatest inventions of the 21st Century are Uber and Lyft. If you’re not a driver or don’t own a car, the mobile phone-based service will get you from point A to point B without bankruptcy.

Example: Most days, I take Uber from my home on Beech St. to the office on Seeley Ave. in Kearny. Total cost most days: $5.60. From home to the supermarket in North Arlington: Same price. From home to the Walmart on Harrison Ave.: Same price.

While I am not sure what the cost would be to call for a taxi, there’s one thing I am certain of: This is a relative bargain.

Perhaps what’s best — and where taxi companies just can’t compare — is that when you request a ride on your Android or iPhone, you know exactly where your driver is starting out [most of the time there are several cars available in-town, and there isn’t one in-town, there’s one in a bordering town], you know how long it’ll be before the driver gets to your location [most times it’s less than five to six minutes] and the driver, thanks to GPS, knows exactly where you are waiting.

If you’re indoors while you wait, you’ll get a text message about a minute before you need to be outside, ready to ride.

And when the ride is all said and done, you get to rate your driver on a 1- to 5-star scale.

So far, since Feb. 29, I haven’t had a driver whom I’ve rated below 5 stars.

And if by chance you rate a driver 3 stars or below, you’ll never have to ride with that driver again.

But the truth is, most of the drivers are nice and friendly — and most are very careful and courteous.

For residents of Kearny, you’ll also know if you’ve ever had to hire a car service to get to Newark Airport, the Town Car services are pretty expensive. With Uber, you’ll get to EWR from Kearny for anywhere between $15 to $22.

Again, a relative bargain.

Now the Uber rides aren’t always this cheap. They’ve got this system called Surge Pricing, where the price of a ride increases — sometimes significantly — if there are fewer cars on the road and the demand for rides is high. The idea is if someone really needs the ride, they’ll pay the extra fare. If the ride isn’t immediately necessary, you can wait — and will wait — until the prices drop.

Not sure if this is for you? You can try Uber for free before you’ll ever have to pay for a ride. Uber offers the free first ride if you know someone who is already a satisfied rider — like me. All you’ll have to know is there reference link — feel free to use mine at www.uber.com/invite/uberkevincanessa — and the first ride is on the house.

Even better — the referrer gets a free ride after you take yours.

Now it’s not just Uber out there that can get you from one place to another cheaply. Lyft is a similar service — it operates just like Uber, but just with a lot less cars on the road. With Lyft, if you use a referral like Uber, you’ll get up to $5 off each of your first 10 rides.

In my case, my home to work ride was $6.20. The first 10 trips cost me just $1.20 with the $5 discount.

As to the safety of the rides — before you step into a car, you know what the driver looks like, you get the license-plate number and you’re told the kind and color of the car. Beyond this, the drivers aren’t supposed to carry cash — and the only way you can pay for your ride is through a credit card or PayPal via the app. Even more, your exact location is logged every single trip, so long as your phone remains on [especially if the driver turns their phone off].

Now, lastly, there’s been a lot of discussion out there, and in the news, as to whether ride services like Uber and Lyft will spell the end of traditional taxi service. And while many in the taxi industry say “yes,” the logical answer is “no way!”

Have you seen Manhattan lately? Does it appear the Yellow taxis are all empty? Do you go more than a block without seeing a cab? On this side of the Hudson River, are there fewer cabs on the road? Doesn’t seem so. And do you think, for a second, everyone who needs a ride has a Smartphone?

No Smartphone means no Uber or Lyft. And if you don’t have a Smartphone, you can’t ask someone to hire a car for you.

Think about it for just a moment. The taxi companies will survive just as they did before Uber.

Have any questions? Send me a message by email to kc@theobserver.com and I’d be happy to answer anything I can.


Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.