Bouquets and brickbats for the apps

Mr Peter Gewirtz enjoying the convenience of a ride to work via Lyft after dropping his child off at school in New York.
Mr Peter Gewirtz enjoying the convenience of a ride to work via Lyft after dropping his child off at school in New York. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Ms Patricia Martinez has switched from the bus to an app called Via. The ride is more comfortable, she said, and the US$5 (S$7) flat rate in most of Manhattan is not much more than the bus fare.

"I wouldn't be able to afford to pay yellow taxis all the time," said Ms Martinez, who lives on the Upper East Side.

"The price makes a difference and the cars are very good."

Ms Lilja Owsley uses Lyft to travel late at night from her job at a wine bar in Chelsea to her home in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

"I'd rather just take an Uber or Lyft instead of waiting for the L train for 10 or 15 minutes," she said.

While ride-hailing services predominantly serve Manhattan, they are spreading to parts of the city where public transit is limited and taxis are scarce.

Despite their appeal, the apps have faced a wave of criticism, including concerns over wheelchair accessibility and drivers' pay.

Uber has also been rocked by a series of problems in recent weeks, prompting many users to delete its app.

The company was accused of trying to profit during airport protests against United States President Donald Trump's first immigration order and criticised over sexual harassment claims by an engineer formerly employed at the company.

Accusations also surfaced recently about a tool Uber was said to have used to deceive the authorities in several cities and countries.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'Bouquets and brickbats for the apps'. Print Edition | Subscribe