For anyone who has been to CES in the past (or any big event in Vegas for that matter), getting around town is one of the biggest issues that you need to deal with (discounting the gambling, drinking and hookers of course). Waiting in taxi lines becomes a regular part of the experience and you plan meetings and activities around the time it will take to get from Point A to Point B.
I was in Las Vegas last spring and spoke with several cab drivers and bellman about the car-sharing companies coming into Vegas and everyone said it would never happen due to the ‘alleged’ ownership of the cab companies by organized crime and their ‘alleged’ ties to local government.
Well due to some good ol’ American lobbying and tax legislation, that all changed in September when Uber and Lyft officially launched in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Which brings me back to my experience getting around Vegas for CES earlier this month. I have always leaned towards Lyft over Uber for a variety of reasons: support #2 in the market, sit in the frontseat, bottles of water, more laid back persona, etc.
I was fascinated with the launch and acceptance of the car-sharing service in just 3 months and polled all of my drivers to learn about their respective back stories and employment experiences. My drivers covered a variety of demographics: Men/women, seniors, white/black/Hispanic, multi-generational Americans & recent immigrants, part-time and full-time drivers, Vegas natives and recent transplants.
All of my drivers except one worked with both Lyft and Uber-the one woman who did not said she was new to the role and was still waiting to get certified to be an Uber driver but planned to. Two of my drivers were former cab drivers and were elated to become independent contractors in the new economy model. One guy had a day job working for the local Transit Authority. One of the former cab drivers had moved from Vegas to Miami to drive cabs there, but as soon as he heard about Uber/Lyft moving into Vegas he packed up and moved back. One driver was a portrait photographer and another was a banquet server for events at the hotels.
One of my curiosities was driver preference between the two services. Unlike other markets that I have traveled to and asked similar questions, every single driver said they liked Lyft better than Uber. when I probed on the reasoning, the general consensus was that the User Interface (UI) was better for both driver and customer, especially with the recent upgrades rolled out in December by Lyft. There was also agreement that the drivers preferred the clientele of Lyft over Uber. When I pressed the 60+ year old African American driver who picked me up at the airport on his preference for Lyft customers his response was, “Uber users just seem to be more ghetto.” And of course, there is the compensation, Lyft pays a larger percentage of the fare to the drivers and has a lower threshold to earn bonuses than Uber.
Uber has done a fantastic job leading the charge in disrupting an old world business (although I continue to question the company’s valuation but that is a blog for another time). They have been first in almost every market they have attacked and have a sizable lead over Lyft in just about every one. But Las Vegas, and my small sample size is a great example where the two competitors entered on equal footing and Lyft, the young upstart trying to keep up, may have come out of the gates on top.