5 for Friday: Halfway There

Welcome to your companion notes to the Here to There podcast! In this week's wrap-up, we're halfway through our 10-episode series and focusing on Episode 5 - Employment which is an extra special episode featuring a Lyft ride with none other than Barb Abney, beloved Twin Cities radio personality.

With the overnight ubiquity of car-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, ideas around transportation employment are shifting quickly. We captured two unique perspectives in this episode as we spoke to Barb about her experience as a just-about-full-time driver as well as Mark Lawson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 which represents Metro Transit drivers, operators, and support staff.

It's a great listen so be sure to tune in and then read on below!

  1. Uber has had its share of ups and downs, especially in recent weeks. To summarize the pros and cons working with and against it:

  • Pro: You can now tip your driver. As we heard from Barb, this was a big selling point of being a Lyft driver over being an Uber driver, especially since you aren't allowed to say anything to your riders about tipping unless they ask (and even then, you had to hope they had cash because it wasn't seamlessly part of the app).

  • Pro: Its CEO finally stepped down in June. Travis Kalanick's [forced] resignation was a long time coming and it sounds like a real Shakespearian drama to the end. If you are into podcasts, the NYT's The Daily had a fascinating episode leading up to the event (and since the event).

  • Con: It's still Uber. With plenty of legal woes, issues abroad, and a culture that's been branded 'toxic', it still seems Uber has a long way to go to regain its footing...or does it?

  1. Lyft was originally playing catch-up to Uber but has come out swinging, especially after the travel ban shenanigans early this year and Lyft's quick response on the right side of history. While Uber has remained the Kleenex/Band-aid equivalent of hailing a ride, Lyft's drivers appear to be happier, and more people are turning to the service. As you'll hear in the episode, Barb drives for both services and says that's pretty common among metro ride-hailing drivers.

  2. Uber and Lyft are just two of the many 'gig economy' options that have cropped up in the past few years and The New Yorker asks the bigger question: is it working? This is a multifaceted question, of course, but this long-form piece ends on a big component of the gig economy, its loneliness. Highly recommend bookmarking this one to read when you have extra time.

  3. Transitioning now to the other end of the episode, we move from the fluid to the fixed. We were joined by a union leader and former bus driver who talked to us about what's on the horizon for professional drivers. We met with Mark before the end of the legislative session, so be sure to listen through the episode as we provide some necessary post-session updates to the recording. Metro Transit was bracing for big cuts which luckily didn't come to pass (this time -- there's always the looming threat they will happen) and is working on hiring more diverse drivers as well as helping would-be drivers prepare for and pass licensure tests.

  4. In the episode we talk briefly about the Bridj public transit experiment in Kansas City and it's worth learning more about. While something of a flop by the ridership numbers, this WIRED article asserts it could still be a bellwether of what's to come. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time?

That's it for this week! The podcast was on holiday hiatus this week but is back next week with a brand-new episode as we begin winding down our 10-episode series. Subscribe now so you don't miss a minute!

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