Senior Lifestyles

Senior Tech: Ride-sharing options help seniors who can't drive

Seniors unable to drive themselves to medical appointments, social events or on errands around town now have an easily accessible option: ride-request services.

Just a phone call or email away, such services enable seniors and others in need of transportation to request a ride from one location to another. Companies including Uber and Lyft hire drivers who have undergone background checks and use their own vehicles to ferry customers.

Following is information on ride-request services that operate locally via mobile apps, as well as El Camino Hospital Auxiliary’s RoadRunners program.


Founded in 2009, Uber offers rides to and from most places in the Bay Area and in 632 other cities worldwide. Offered via mobile app, users must sign up by downloading the app and providing basic information including contact and payment details.

To use the app, clients set a pickup location, tap “Request” to call a ride and enter a destination. The app then will generate a map showing the user’s route and an estimated fare. Users may view their driver’s name, photo, car make, model and license plate number before the driver arrives. Uber drivers are usually identified by a placard in the front windshield or another notable feature. As a safety measure, Uber customers can share a map of their trips with others via text message.

Uber offers several types of rides, varying in luxury, size, accessibility and price. One of the more affordable options, uberX, can seat four people per ride, and uberXL accommodates up to six. Then there is uberPool, which encourages riders to share their ride and cost with others traveling in the same direction. Uber also offers a higher-priced premium line that that includes uberBLACK and uberSUV, featuring luxury vehicles.

In terms of accessibility, Uber offers its ASSIST and WAV (wheelchair-accessible vehicle) lines. In particular, uberASSIST, called by tapping the ASSIST button near the bottom of the Uber

includes uberBLACK and uberSUV, featuring luxury vehicles.

In terms of accessibility, Uber offers its ASSIST and WAV (wheelchair-accessible vehicle) lines.

In particular, uberASSIST, called by tapping the ASSIST button near the bottom of the Uber app, is the same price as UberX but can carry folding wheelchairs, walkers and scooters. The Open Doors Organization trains uberASSIST drivers to help riders into vehicles, and riders may contact their drivers ahead of time with specific concerns.

Uber’s rates for the Bay Area are listed below. Additional wait-time charges of 20 cents per minute apply if the driver has waited two minutes.

• Base fare: $2.25

• Per minute: 20 cents

• Per mile: 95 cents

• Booking fee: $2

• Minimum fare: $7

• Cancellation fee: $5

Uber offers some flat fares, such as a fee of $65 for an uberBLACK ride from anywhere in the San Francisco city area to San Francisco International Airport.

Surge pricing may apply, which means rates increase sharply in a high-traffic area (such as near a stadium after a game) or during a high-traffic time of day (such as during commute hours).

After the ride, drivers and riders may rate each other.

For more information, visit


Lyft, founded in 2012, offers rides all over the Bay Area via the mobile Lyft app. To use Lyft, potential riders must first create an account requiring their basic contact and payment information and a photo. To book a ride, customers open the Lyft app, select the type of ride they wish – like Uber, Lyft has several different lines at different price points – set a pickup location and destination, and tap “Request Lyft” to complete the transaction. To identify their Lyft drivers, riders should look for either a pink mustache or an “amp” Lyft light on the windshield.

The cheapest Lyft options are the Lyft Lyft, which offers seating for four, and the Lyft Line, which is the carpool option similar to uberPool. Lyft also offers Lyft Plus (for six or fewer passengers), Lyft Premier (with luxury vehicles), Lyft Lux and Lyft Lux SUV.

The service offers a Critical Response Line riders may call if they have trouble during the ride.

Pricing is similar to Uber’s, but Lyft offers riders the option to tip the driver after their rides.

• Base price: $2.25

• Cost per mile: 95 cents

• Cost per minute: 20 cents

• Minimum ride fee: $5

• Cancellation fee: $5

• Service fee: $2

Lyft raises prices during busy times and at congested destinations, dubbing the practice “prime-time pricing.”

For more information, visit

RoadRunners Transportation

A service provided by the El Camino Hospital Auxiliary, RoadRunners Transportation rides are available for those who live within 10 miles of the Mountain View campus or within 8 miles of the Los Gatos campus. Volunteers drive seniors to health-related appointments, and also may provide transportation to senior centers, banks, beauty shops and markets.

The service is available weekdays and costs $3 to $14, based on mileage. Clients are encouraged to reserve rides at least 48 hours in advance.

For more information, call 940-7016 or visit

Ramya Krishna is a former Town Crier editorial intern.

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