Driving in Los Angeles vs. Driving in San Francisco

Rideshare driving can really vary from city to city but there are a lot of similarities if you know where to look.  Today, RSG contributor, Joe Strandell, takes a look at what it’s like driving in LA vs. SF.

What is the difference between ridesharing in Los Angeles and San Francisco? After driving in both cities, I’ve come to a few conclusions based off experience.

Visibility in San Francisco

Visibility in San Francisco
Justin Sullivan / Via Getty Images News


Visibility in Los Angeles

Visibility in Los Angeles
David McNew / Via Getty Images News


Cost of Living in San Francisco

Cost of Living in San Francisco
Flickr: plasticcandy

This is all you have left after you pay for your tiny studio apartment.

Cost of Living in Los Angeles

Cost of Living in Los Angeles
Flickr: plasticcandy

While it might be a little cheaper to live in LA, it’s still a lot more expensive compared to the rest of the country.

Rent Costs

So which is the better city to drive in?

I have three stories.

1. In LA, I remember one particular Lyft ride. It was a guy headed to North Hollywood, about 20 minutes away. I tried to stimulate the conversation by offering some music. He just said, “If I need something, I’ll let you know.” It was mostly quiet for the rest of the trip. This happened a few times where people were more interested in just getting from Point A to Point B.

2. I got a call from a girl in Beverly Hills. I show up and start the clock, like normal. She said, “I noticed you started the clock when I didn’t get in the car yet.” I said, “Yeah, when I show up, the clock starts.” She was angry and determined to “save a dime.” I said, “I wouldn’t freak out about this. It’s not like I’m getting paid a lot of money to do this.” The trip was about $7. Some cities, like Santa Barbara, have more bang for the buck. I think Lyft and Uber should consider environmental stress levels and adjust pricing for it.

3. In SF, I picked up a lady who worked at Twitter (everyone seems affiliated with some major tech company). She explained to me why she liked Lyft more than Uber because “it’s a local thing.” People in SF were a bit more open to starting a dialogue and wanting to get to know me.

Christian Perea has driven in SD, SB, and San Jose

christian perea

With his experience, he explained to me:

“SF is Disneyland, two to three rides per hour at any given time of the day. The challenge becomes focused on anticipating primetime. Also the most difficult city to drive in mentally as there are many bicyclist’s, pedestrians, and unconventional intersections. When I first started driving here I could only drive for two hours at a time until I increased my endurance and got used to the city.

San Diego is much different. Much slower and more inclined to busier on Uber. In both San Diego and Santa Barbara double dipping was necessary unless I brought a good book and found a beautiful place to park and do nothing. Sometimes I actually miss being able to pull into a parking lot and log hours for Lyft knowing I wouldn’t receive a call for an hour.

Pax in SF are generally better behaved and ready within 1 minute of you arriving. They have used the service for a while and know what to do and what not to do. I have only had 2 pax attempt to overcrowd the vehicle since I came here (500 rides). I have none try to smoke or bring an open container. In turn, they are more likely to be critical of navigation and are usually aware that most drivers do not actually live in the city (although I do).”

One thing is certain without these technologies.

Life without Lyft Line and UberPool

Why You're Late in Los Angeles
Kevork Djansezian / Via Getty Images News

After driving my first Lyft Line this weekend, it hit me that this was the answer to this traffic problem. Not only do UberPool and Lyft Line decrease traffic, they also bring together really interesting combinations of people.  The passengers were connecting with each other and it felt so cool being the bridge to that.

In conclusion

Your rideshare experience in California will be different based on what city you drive in. Whether it’s SD, LA, or SF, or even a smaller markets like Santa Barbara or Santa Cruz. I think Uber and Lyft should take into account stress levels for what they charge. For example, driving in LA is much more stressful than driving in Santa Barbara, even though the pay is just about the same.

What city do you live in? Have you tried different cities? How has your experience been? I’d love to know in the comments. 

-Joe @ RSG