I took a Lyft to the polls. Here's what happened.

November 13, 2018

Rideshare companies Lyft, Uber and Lime offered cheaper rides to voters who needed transportation on Nov. 6. Reporter Jackeline Rodriguez tried it out but was underwhelmed by the experience.


 Google also teamed up in the get out the vote effort which involved rideshare companies.


If I Think It’s Free, I’m There


There’s no shame in admitting this, so I’m going to come right out and say it: I love free things.


A broke college student trying to live her best life‒ any semblance of a life, really‒ is going to need to spend money, and so whatever I can get for free, I’ll take.


The last few months have felt like I was being overtaken with ads for Lyft or Uber, and their “free*” rides to the polls. I don’t have a car and didn’t have time to early vote, so go Lyft and Uber, I remember thinking.


“Free*” soon gave way to “heavily discounted!”, which then revealed the fine print of “50% off, up to $5”. It then became clear that “Free*” was actually going to cost me quite a bit.


 A screengrab from the current Lyft website.


An Arduous Process


I got out of class and began the for-some-reason arduous process of requesting a ride to the polls. At first, it was simple. I followed Lyft’s instructions, clicked the button proclaiming “Take me to the polls!”, and then was met with… $42.46, for a ride to 21555 Pyramid Highway, supposedly in Reno. All I could do was stare at it in shock. This was my “Free*” “heavily discounted!” ride to the polls?


There was no way.


I did some research of my own‒ found a polling place only 0.5 miles away from me, but Lyft refused to recognize it as a polling place that therefore deserved a “heavily discounted!” discount. Whatever. I paid the $5, thankful there was no zero behind that five, and wound up backseat of a recalcitrant Lyft driver who refused to see the value in someone interviewing him on this historic day.


 The Lyft driver did not want to take about politics, at all.


No Political Views In This Car


“Do you feel comfortable talking about your political views with me?” I asked him during our car ride.


“Absolutely not,” he replied. “I don’t believe in talking about them at all.”


Wow. For someone who had just told me he believed everyone should vote no matter what, he was being surprisingly ornery about it. But from the very little he gave me, I soon gleaned some key information.


First: Lyft had not told their drivers who was picking up the slack for these $5 discounts.


My driver presumed Lyft would eat the cost, but figured it wouldn’t matter since I was “the only person going to vote” that he’d picked up.


Second: He’d picked up no other voters. It’s possible that my driver was the anomaly here, the rara avis in his flock, but after questioning numerous people at the polls‒ behind the “no electioneering” sign, of course‒ it was clear that I was the anomaly instead. No one else considered this to be the revolutionary turnaround that I did.


But a study done by CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) said that 29 percent of American voters between the ages of 19 and 29 cited lack of transportation as a reason for not voting in the 2016 election, how could it be that now, in this uber important election, no one was using Uber? Did I miss the memo to buy a car specifically for elections?


After my Lyft ride, I had a line to get into the polling station, but I was relieved I made it.


Maybe I’m ahead of my time. Maybe next election, Uber and Lyft’s popularity will have soared that much more and they’ll be heralded as saviors of the Gen Z-ers or whatever we are called. In the meantime, maybe they should work on how they advertise their currus ex machina. (For some of our readers: The term deus ex machina is a translation of a Latin phrase and means “a god from a machine.” Currus was Latin for a plow with wheels.)


Would I use it again? Well, I kind of have to.


Reporting and Photos by Jackeline Rodriguez shared with the Reynolds Sandbox
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