It’s time to bid farewell to 2014, which for many of us involves a temporary vacation from sobriety. If you plan to celebrate in public — and you want to greet the New Year in one piece — you should probably find someone to drive you.
Last year you might have called on Uber. This year, maybe not so much.
Maybe you deleted your Uber app after one too many Frat Boys Gone Wild episodes by the company’s executives. Maybe you’re a little worried about your personal safety after a handful of well-publicized incidents involving Uber drivers.
Or maybe you just don’t want to get gouged on the busiest cab night of the year. Every year on Jan. 1, Uber passengers report paying hundreds of dollars in surge pricing for even the briefest excursions. (Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s unapologetic response: If you don’t like it, wait until after 3 a.m., when the prices drop again.)
Here’s Uber’s official price surge chart. Calling for an ride after midnight? We hope you saved up for it.
Uber’s primary rival, Lyft, also jacks up prices when demand is high, though it says it will cap premium pricing at
200 400 percent of normal rates on New Year’s Eve. (Lyft and Uber have both pledged to donate $1 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving for every ride on NYE, if that makes you feel any better.)
There are lots of alternative ride sharing services and other apps you can use to get yourself home in one piece — without having to spend hours trying to flag down a cab, and with most of your money still in your pocket. Here are a dozen of them.
You can order an actual honest-to-goodness taxicab via your phone, provided that you live in one of the West Coast cities where the service is currently available (Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, or Seattle). Flywheel works just like those other disruptive ride-sharing services, but without the fist bumps, pink mustaches, and Uber attitude. Even better: Flywheel’s #SurgeFreeNYE promotion means that from 8 p.m. till 3 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, every ride will cost just $10. (Rides where the normal meter fare exceeds $50 will cost extra.)
Curb (formerly Taxi Magic) deploys professional cab and limo drivers in more than 60 cities from Alexandria, Virginia, to Vancouver, Canada. Enter your drop-off point into the app, and it will give you a rough estimate of the fare. There’s never any surge pricing, and at the end of the ride you can choose to pay via the app or cash (unless you’re in San Francisco or L.A. — then it’s strictly by app).
You decided to drive after all and now you’re shnockered. Nice going, jackass. Fortunately, you may be able to call your local auto club for a free 10-mile tow home for you and your vehicle. You don’t even have to be a AAA member — just call 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and tell them you need a “Tipsy Tow” (also called a “Tow for Life” or a “Tow to Go,” depending on your location). The service is offered by more than two dozen AAAs across the country, and it won’t cost anything more than your pride.
Be My Designated Driver
You already have a car; what you really need is someone to drive it. That’s where BeMyDD comes in. Book a driver via the app, website, or phone; a professional driver will show up where you are, climb behind the wheel, and play chauffeur for $14 to $19.50 an hour (with a three-hour minimum). If you’re already out bar hopping and you’ve had too much, you can call BeMyDD to take both you and your car home. That costs a $25 flat fee plus about $3.50 a mile. BeMyDD is available in 76 cities nationwide; drivers are insured by BeMyDD for up to $2 million per ride.
If Uber is the 800-pound gorilla of ride-sharing services (and Lyft is its 400-pound simian cousin), then Sidecar is more like a plucky-yet-nimble chimpanzee. The biggest difference between Sidecar and the others is that drivers compete on price and you get to pick the one you want — so you can choose the cheapest ride or the car closest to your location. There are no price surges, and Sidecar encourages ride sharing, cutting your costs even further. Sidecar is available in 10 U.S. metro areas, including most large California cities, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and D.C. Whisk and Gett are also alternatives to Uber and Lyft, but available only in New York City.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and you want to travel in style. GroundLink connects you to black car services in more than 60 cities nationwide. You can choose from economy cars to VIP sedans, with per ride prices starting at $55. GroundLink guarantees that its drivers will show up on time or the next ride is free; your total fees, taxes, and fare are presented before you agree to climb aboard. It won’t be cheap, but at least it won’t be a surprise.
There are literally hundreds of public transit apps in the iTunes and Play stores, but the aptly named Transit App is one of the most comprehensive. Available for Android and iOS, Transit App lets you find the nearest train, bus or bike share in 87 major metro areas. It will also let you book an Uber directly, if you just can’t stand mingling with the masses. (Other transit apps with a national footprint include Moovit and Embark.) Hey, there are worse ways to ring in the new year than slumming it on the subway. And who knows, you might run into Neil deGrasse Tyson.
You say you’re committed to using Uber but you’d rather not fork over the equivalent of a month’s car payment just to get home? The SurgeProtector app logs into the Uber database and determines which areas are in high surge zones, and then directs you to a location where fares are lower. On New Year’s Eve, however, we wouldn’t count on finding many places where Uber’s urge to surge can be avoided.
Send holiday greetings and spiked eggnog to Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.