Why City Knowledge Matters To Your Passengers

Getting people from point A to point B is usually pretty easy with tools like navigation but occasionally there are times where city knowledge comes in handy.  Most drivers don’t take the time to learn about their own city though, so today, RSG contributor, Scott Van Maldegiam, shares some tips on effectively navigating tough areas and what you need to know about your city that will help increase ratings and may even earn you a bigger tip!

The more I drive, the more I discover what’s really important for rideshare drivers.  Knowing the city you drive in is one of those important things.  We all have navigation and can follow directions, but knowing the city streets when the navigation isn’t quite right is something you can only get with experience and lots of practice.

How To Get There

When I first started driving, I figured navigation would tell me all I needed to know.  Back when I started, passengers didn’t have the ability to enter their destinations, so it was important for the driver to enter the address or location correctly.  Occasionally, a passenger would just say they would tell me where they wanted me to go especially if they didn’t know the name or address of the location.

As a driver, I always want to know where I am going.  On these trips, I would gather information to help narrow down the destination while following their directions so I knew I wasn’t getting off track.  If you don’t know your city, it is much harder to know if you are getting off track.

Most cities have difficult areas to navigate and Chicago is no different.  Areas that have multiple levels of streets can be very challenging for drivers.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sworn at Google Maps because it took me to a location that was one level above or below where the person was located.  Now that I know how to get around that area, I hear from passengers I pick-up “I am glad you were able to find me.”  There are still many drivers on the road that can’t navigate these areas.

While it is very difficult to know all the one-way streets, it is good to know the most important ones.  This can save time and distance for your riders.  For example, if an address is at a corner, but instead of taking a right turn and two left turns to get them to their destination, you could just go straight a block and drop them off at the corner.  Riders appreciate avoiding extra time sitting in downtown traffic.  Every time I am able to do this for a passenger, I can be assured of a 5 star trip and increase my chances of getting a tip.

Know The Hot-Spots

Adding value to the rides we give passengers is another great way to increase our chances of a 5 star trip and/or a tip at the end of the ride.  Providing city knowledge to our passengers is a great way to do this.

We all strike up conversations with our passengers.  Some passengers are more talkative than others, but the ones that want to talk, I usually ask them “what fun things do you have planned… ?”  In most cases, that leads to a great conversation.  In some cases, that leads to the question “where would you suggest?”  Having an answer to those types of questions is important to increasing your value as a driver and every once-in-a-blue-moon leads to an invitation to join them.  Some of the destinations to know about are:

  • Bars/Clubs – Knowing the best bars/clubs for what riders are looking for is helpful.  Are they looking for a sports bar to watch the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup?  Are they looking for a jazz club?  Or are they looking for the cool place to hang out?  Or are they looking for a dance club for whatever music they appreciate?  During college football and basketball seasons, are there certain bars that cater to certain alumni?  In Chicago, there are lots.
  • Tourist Attractions – Knowing the best tourist attractions has come in handy for me a number of times.  Know your museums, zoos and various other attractions.  In Chicago, microbrewery tours are also very popular.

Another important part of knowing the hot-spots is knowing where to drop-off and where to pick-up.  For example, there is a popular bar called Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago.  The address for this bar is on Clark, but the entrance is through an alley off of Hubbard which is a half a block off of Clark.

Lastly, we have sporting events.  For events at Wrigley Field and the United Center, traffic patterns change on game days.  Some roads are closed while others may not allow left turns.  Being able to direct your riders to the best pickup spot is important.  If someone insists they have to be picked up from Clark and Addison right after a Cubs game, good luck with that.

Know Where To Stay Away From

This is a hard topic to address since it falls into two categories:  dangerous areas and enforcement areas.


As the rideshare industry is becoming more and more regulated, this means that the powers-that-be will be enforcing the rules.  Keeping track of areas where enforcement officials have been spotted in your city is very important.

In Chicago, the main area being enforced is McCormick Place.  I have heard of more than one story where a driver has been ticketed for not having the appropriate documentation.  I won’t bore you with the details, but in one case, the person was issued a ticket for $3000.

While I want to follow the rules, I don’t go looking for trouble.  At this point, I simply will not drop off at McCormick Place.

Dangerous Areas

Let’s face it…  Many of us drive very late hours.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you that nothing good ever happens after midnight?  In Chicago, I think this is especially true in certain areas.  Most shootings occur during the late night hours and in so many cases, an innocent bystander is hit.  I don’t want to be that guy.

While I have never refused a fare to one of these locations late at night, I don’t hang around and I don’t go looking for rides in these areas.  Most hours of the day, I don’t have a problem driving in these areas.  In fact, I have a much better chance of getting a nice customer from the South Side of Chicago than I do if I pick up someone in River North.  Sorry if that offends someone out there, but that is my experience.

I have lived in the Chicago area all my life, so all of my experiences are related to driving in Chicago.  Do you have some city knowledge you would like to share with other drivers?  Please share in the comments.

-Scott @ RSG