Phillip Zakhour picks up passenger Rickey Choi in December as part of Sidecar… (John Green/Contra Costa…)
If you're like me, you probably prefer taking cabs over public transportation. I mean, let's face it: Hopping on the 151 to go to the new Underground is just too much of an oxymoron to contemplate.
Unfortunately, my bank account is typically emptier than a Nickelback concert in Wicker Park, so I try to limit taxi-taking. That's where Sidecar comes in. It's a new app designed to allow "regular people" to use their cars as cabs. Here's how it works: You set your pickup and drop-off location. A Sidecar driver near you picks you up. Any money exchanged via the app is considered a donation. (Sidecar suggests how much, but it's always cheaper than a cab because drivers don't technically operate a business.) The driver and customer then rate each other on a five-star system and you go on your way.
Sidecar was set up as a ride-sharing service, and its founders list "environmental responsibility" as one benefit. Well, OK, but this app is really a broke girl's dream. You should download Sidecar, too. Here's why:
No creepiness factor
I know what you're thinking. You're going to get hacked up and found in a Dumpster behind Stanley's. Ha, ha. Please. Sidecar already thought of that. You think some Silicon Valley Stanford grads want to defend their app to Nancy Grace on HLN? No way, Jose.
To cover the safety issue, all drivers must attend an orientation, complete a background check and have a clean driving record.
You're not required, but it's Sidecar etiquette that you sit in the front seat and have a conversation with your driver. Wondering who is behind the wheel? So far I've had a law student, a professional poker player, a musician with a hot German girlfriend, an app developer who just broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted to get married (hey, Patrick!) and a bar owner.
Pleasant driving experience
So far I've driven in a handful of brand new Hondas, a Lexus, a Mercedes and a Volvo. Every driver lets me choose the radio station or from a custom playlist. (My favorite was "2013 Former Sorority Girl Jams"… so up my alley.) And the best part ... THE EXTRAS!
The drivers really outdo themselves when it comes to providing service—one guy had a 100-item menu categorized by location in the car ("Right backseat pocket"; "Glove compartment") with items including gum and mints, chilled water bottles, various snacks, tampons, ponytail holders, a breathalyzer, safety pins … the list goes on an on. Naturally, these items are free. Just don't forget all you enjoyed when donating to your driver.
You'd think such a service would really put a dent in your wallet—nope. My normal route from Lincoln Park/Old Town to River North (I know what you're thinking. And yes, you're right ...) is only $6! Including tip!
Molly Fedick is a RedEye special contributor.
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