Five countries doing rideshares better than Seattle

A car sports the unmistakable pink mustache of Lyft’s ridesharing service. (Photo courtesy of Lyft)
A car sports the unmistakable pink mustache of Lyft’s ridesharing service. (Photo courtesy of Lyft.)

After an almost year-long debate, Seattle City Council decided yesterday to limit rideshare companies Lyft, Sidecar, and UberX to only 150 operating cars in the city per company at any given time.

However, no limit was placed on the total number of authorized rideshare drivers nor the number of rideshare companies allowed in the city.

Neither taxis nor rideshare companies seem to be happy with the decision. According to MyNorthwest.com, an Uber statement following the City Council meeting called it “disappointing,” saying the driver cap would shut down the company.

Taxi rep Dawn Gearhart said the decision would lead to a “race to the bottom for immigrant drivers in Seattle.” According to Gearhart, about 99 percent of taxi drivers are immigrants—predominantly from Somalia, Ethiopia and India—whose incomes decreased since last year from rideshare competition.

Regardless of how the city’s car service balancing act turns out for drivers, the demand for more efficient, cheaper and eco-friendly transportation is not going away.

Rideshare systems in the rest of the world are a testament to that. Here are just a few places one can find ridesharing abroad:

1. Sweden: Skjutsgruppen

Skjutsgruppen, literally translated to “group rides,” is a web-based service that lets those in Sweden open up their cars to travelers by listing their car’s itinerary and available space.

Using the website’s simple search engine (with a playful backdrop of toy dinosaurs, old-school Volkswagen Microbuses and hot air balloons), ride seekers can find eco-friendly and inexpensive transportation options.

Since the movement is not for-profit, it is not subject to government regulations; rather, it is part of Sweden’s Civil Society program, working with the government for civic initiatives.

Fun fact: The Swedes take their ridesharing so seriously they founded International Ridesharing Day five years ago.

2. France: BlaBlaCar

Just like booking flights, this carpooling service is as easy as selecting a city of departure, a destination city and clicking search. Results show not just the drivers passing through those cities and their prices, but also the drivers’ customer reviews, make and model of their car and their carbon emissions.

BlaBlaCar has, since starting in France, expanded to serve 12 countries across Europe, including Great Britain, Poland and Russia.

According to a BlaBlaCar rep, their goal is solely to share transportation costs rather than making profits (unlike Seattle rideshare companies), so they are unregulated by the government.

3. Cuba: hitchhiking

With a significantly underdeveloped public transportation system and unregulated taxi fares in Havana, some who don’t own cars or bikes (particularly women) in the nation’s capital resort to free rides with cars passing by.

Instead of thumbs, hitchhikers use smiles and charm to earn a spot in a car.

4. India: OliveTrips.com

This online ridesharing service was launched on World Environment Day in 2011 to provide travelers with a network for carpooling, two-wheel motorbike-pooling and taxi sharing opportunities.

The site also sends you customized EcoReports to relay your financial savings, fuel savings and positive contributions to the environment.

A vehicle in India is filled to the brim with carpoolers. (Photo by clara and james via Flickr)
A vehicle in India is filled to the brim with carpoolers. (Photo by clara and james via Flickr)

5. China: PickRide

This ridesharing phone app company, based in China and the U.S., is a hybrid between OliveTrips and Seattle’s current rideshare apps.

Using the phone app, one can both locate local ridesharing availabilities and flag nearby taxis. Seattle’s taxis could take notes from this handy cab-hailer, which, as of Nov. 2012, already had 1.35 million users in China.

This story has been updated since its initial publication.

2 Comments

  1. You forgot to mention the mother country of ridesharing: Germany! Check ww.mitfahrgelegenheit.de ;-)

  2. This is a disappointing move by the Council. Traditional taxi service in Seattle is, and has been since at least the late 1990s, slow and unreliable. I used to live at Union and Summit in Seattle. Locals will recognize this locale as being very close in to downtown while still in the Cap/FirstHill ‘hood. I could not get taxi service within 20 minutes to half an hour. Traditional taxi service in Seattle is unreliable.

    We are not going to have trains any time soon. The City has to instead rely on innovative, low-cost transportation solutions such as the non-traditional, taxi services that are being discussed.

    The Council should aspire to greater things, aspire to making this city great. Yet, they are stuck in some odd D.C.-type compromise that stalls progress while making the Council appear ineffective, weak, and prone to second-class status when it comes to transportation topics.

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