What Is the Best Ride-Sharing App in Montgomery County?
Over the course of a week we took rides using transportation apps Uber, Lyft and Barwood Taxi and compared the experiences
Gone are the days of waving down a taxi—now hailing a ride is as easy as pressing a few buttons on your cellphone. Ride-sharing behemoths Uber and Lyft are all over the area, and Barwood Taxi, a local standby, is in the app game, too. Over the course of a week, we took three rides from downtown Bethesda to Westfield Montgomery mall around 4:30 p.m. using each of the three apps and compared the experiences.
Making the call
Uber: Uber’s interface is simple and straightforward—a pin drop shows on a map where you and the nearest drivers are located, and all you have to do is enter your destination. You can watch an icon move along the map as your driver approaches.
Lyft: Lyft’s map is almost the same as Uber’s. You get an estimate of how close a driver is and can track that person’s route to you. Lyft will also give you a price estimate for your ride before you get into the car.
Barwood Taxi: The Barwood app isn’t GPS-enabled, so riders have to fill out a short form with their information before each ride. One perk: Unlike Uber and Lyft, Barwood allows you to schedule a pickup at a later time.
Uber: Catching an Uber was hassle-free—drivers can see the location of your phone and come straight to you.
Lyft: The driver came to the wrong side of the street—probably because of a GPS mix-up—but I was able to see where he was on the app, and Lyft sent me a text saying that he’d arrived.
Barwood Taxi: The Barwood driver also came to the wrong side of the street, but he called my phone and I caught him as he came around to where I was waiting.
Uber: I requested an UberX, the company’s most basic option, and the driver arrived in a clean Chevy Malibu that looked pretty new.
Lyft: Like Uber, Lyft has an option for large groups, carpooling and high-end rides. I chose the basic Lyft and was picked up in a spotless Lincoln MKT with leather seats.
Barwood Taxi: The minivan was a bit older but still clean, marked with the company’s insignia and informational placards.
Uber: The driver wasn’t very talkative—which was fine with me—but he was friendly, greeting me by name and later wishing me a nice day. The radio played quiet R&B.
Lyft: Personable and friendly, the driver talked about his family, asked about my background and made some good jokes.
Barwood Taxi: The driver didn’t attempt to make conversation—he was busy eating noodles. He held the paper bowl with one hand as he drove, and took bites of his meal at stoplights.
The Other Line
Uber: The Uber driver was the only one who didn’t take a phone call during the ride.
Lyft: The driver answered his phone, but only after asking if I minded. He apologized, explaining that the call was from family, and chatted briefly on speaker with both hands on the wheel.
Barwood Taxi: The driver put down his noodles a few minutes into the ride in order to take a call. He spoke on the phone for the remainder of the trip, holding the wheel with his free hand.
Uber: Paying through the app is painless—Uber saves your credit card information and automatically charges you the fare. You’re emailed a receipt within minutes.
Lyft: The Lyft app also saves your credit card information, though the receipt took a bit longer because it isn’t sent until you’ve finished tipping.
Barwood Taxi: Rather than paying through the app, riders pay in the car with cash or a credit card. There‘s a pay screen on the backseat where you can swipe your card, request information or issue a complaint.
Uber: Uber doesn’t allow in-app tipping—drivers get a portion of each fare—but it has relaxed its rules on cash tips. You can tip in cash but aren’t expected to.
Lyft: The Lyft app asks users to choose among five options: $1, $2, $5, “a different value” or “no tip.” I tipped $2.
Barwood Taxi: The pay screen allows riders to select from four options: 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent or “none.” (Or you can tip in cash.) I tipped 15 percent, which was $2.40.
Uber: 24 minutes, including a five-minute wait.
Lyft: 26 minutes, including a seven-minute wait. Unlike Uber, Lyft typically starts charging riders after a driver waits two minutes; my driver started the meter before I got in the car.
Barwood Taxi: 29 minutes, including a 10-minute wait.
Uber: $10.65 (no tip)
Lyft: $13.36 after tip
Barwood Taxi: $18.40 after tip