Friday, March 07, 2014

What a Trip- The Ride vs. Uber

In the past year, a lot has changed- and we’ll get to that, but for now I want to take a moment and write about transportation a bit.  

Many people when we first moved to Boston had the auto-solution of using “The Ride.”  While of course, people who actually used the services, weren’t such fans of it.  With my new job, my office is not really close to a T stop that would be safe for me to use safely, and as many of you know, Scootie is not in the best shape for commuting.

This leaves me with 2 alternatives.  The Ride, and Uber.  For those who don’t know, Uber is an app that has changed our lives entirely.  With a few taps of your phone, a professional driver will arrive at wherever you are and take you wherever you want to go.  You store your credit card info, and there is no tipping required, financial exchange, and you are able to review your drivers, and store your trips for review if you feel you got the “run around.”  It is a blessing.

The Ride is the city’s paratransit service for people with disability.  It is NOT income based.  People are found eligible based on an in person evaluation during which their mobility is assessed.  You have to schedule rides in advance (you can do it online, but the system is VERY primitive and often not efficient), and when you “request” a time to be picked up or dropped off, they basically take creative liberties depending on what other pick ups or drop offs might be on the schedule as well.  I have been an hour early for job interviews before and so late for meetings, I just didn’t bother. And we wonder why people with disabilities have difficulties maintaining employment.

The other day, when I was wedged in the backseat of a Ride sedan I decided this blog needed to happen.  I want to go much more in depth into these issues later, but I thought this would be an example of a play by play of the two scenarios that could potentially be my ride home. 

Here we go…

The Ride:
One way trip $3

Requested pick up time: 3:45.  I received half of a voicemail the night before that my pickup time would be 4:16.  Already a half an hour after my requested time.

Leave my desk at 4:06

Wait outside.  Decide it's too cold.  Go back inside.
15 minutes later, Call the "where's my ride" hotline. 
"Information is not currently available. Your promised pick up time is 4:16 pm.  Please try back later" 

4:30- The car arrives.  I go back outside.

There are already 2 people in the sedan. 
"What’s your name???"


"You didn't tell me you had THOSE!"  The driver snaps as he looks at my wheeled briefcase and small lunchbox.  

Climb in the front seat.

Drive to another building nearby.  


There are now 3 people in the vehicle and we're picking up another one. 

The poor people in the back are a small old woman and a younger girl, possibly her PCA. 

The driver goes inside and looks for the next person we're picking up.  

Sigh. I know what I have to do....  "Want me to get in the middle?"

As I climb in the back between to the two women I'm greeted with, "OOOOH YOURE WEARING SUCH PRETTY COLORS!" 

An old man sits in the front seat. 

The old woman asks what the building is for.  She has old lady breath. 

I have no idea
"It's a very tall building."

Suuuure is.

Looks at her numberless watch. "Oh my it's 5:30!"  


tick tock....

What's that building?  I can't read the name of it?? 

Driver: I don't know if that person is a man or a woman but he walks like a man...

Old man in the front: "looks like a $3 bill."

"Is this your house!? Do you have a driveway?"

Old lady:  "WHAT??"

Driver: never mind.

Young girl: she has a hearing problem, you could be nice.

They exit vehicle.  The young girl looks at me and smiles, knowingly. "Have a good day...." 

Old man: “NEXT STOP- ALLSTON!!!!” 

It still smells like old lady breath. 

The driver checks to make sure I’m ok sitting on the hump still.  I don’t bother moving, since I just want to get home.


Sit in traffic on the BU bridge. 

My back starts to hurt from sitting on the hump in the middle of the back seat. 

Old man coughs like he has bronchitis. I wish I had germ x.  To bathe in. 

Old man: we're making good time!"

More traffic.


We reach my building and I open the door to get out of the car.  Usually it is a struggle to simply take my bags from the driver and get in my building without them following me like I’m incompetent.  They yank on the door of my building while I hold out my key fob they need to actually make the door open.

When I have my scooter, they have to put an orange belt around me, and my scooter (which I don’t actually understand the logistics of, since if I fell off the lift, that would just cause my scooter to land on top of me)  but then they are not allowed to take it off until I’m inside my “destination.”  So I sit in the lobby of my building waiting for a stranger to take this public health hazard of a set belt off of me.  Awkward.  A few drivers cut me some slack though, and understand how degrading the whole notion is.  One even joked sarcastically about how stylish the belt was, and how it was all the rage in Milan.  He got it.

I try to get my bags from the guy and mutter “thank you, I’m all set, have a nice day.”

Then for a moment, I’m stunned.  “No thank you!”

“What you did, getting in the middle, that was very helpful to me, very kind.  Not many people would have done that.”

I shrug. “Well… I take up a lot less space!  It wouldn’t have made sense.”

“Well thank you. You have a good day too.”

The ride took an unexpected twist, as such validation does not usually occur, but by this point, I am overwhelmed, over stimulated, exhausted and anxious, as a similar veture occurred before 9 a.m. just to get to work.

Can I go home now? 


Before getting in the elevator after leaving the office I hit about 3 buttons on my phone.

"Your driver will arrive in 3 minutes."

A blue Prius pulls directly up to my work building as promised.

I've had him before.

"Brighton right?"

Without a word he takes my bags and loads them into the trunks and opens and closes the door for me.

"Yep, Allston, right near there."  I tell him my address.

"Is the temperature all right?  Do you have a radio preference?"  

16 silent, new car scented minutes later, I arrive in front of my building. He opens the door for me and hands me my bags. 

"Thank you." 

"Have a good day!" 

And I'm home.  $16. 

Being treated with dignity, respect, and having autonomy over my own schedule.  PRICELESS. 

You tell me if there's a disparity. 


Anonymous said...

Oh Mal! Very well blogged. There are many comparison between Uber and "The Ride", health care systems, UPS vs. U.S.P.S. So glad Uber came into your world.

Tara said...

Uber <3 !!! And honestly I can hardly begin to imagine how worth it that additional $13 was for you.

Eliza Fernie said...

I definitely just sent a link to this to State House Committee members in Colorado who are considering legislation about regulating Uber. Even given different transportation options for people with disabilities in the two states, this story speaks for itself & Uber's value as an innovative transportation option for people of many different abilities who value dignity, respect, and autonomy.

Princess Malphaba said...

Thanks Eliza! Great email, and I am happy to be a voice, supporting in the expansion of uber.