We have heard the complaints that the Uber and Lyft shortage in Boston is an inconvenience, but what I experienced in the Seaport Saturday night was not only a nuisance. It was a major public safety concern.
As a young woman, I am trained to be hypervigilant when out at night, especially in getting home. When my Uber arrives, I check the license plate number and compare it with my app. At all times during the ride, I watch the map for any potential diversions from the route. Even though my family and friends are sharing my location at all times, I always text someone that I have arrived home. And if I get a bad feeling about the driver before drop-off, I don’t get out directly where I live.
So you can imagine my panic on Saturday night when the Lyft and Uber apps showed no available rides but unmarked cars started pulling up on Seaport Boulevard offering rides for cash.
The area was crowded with people after last call. Quick thinkers grabbed Blue Bikes, but the only other immediate option to get home besides walking was one of these unmarked cars. I called one cab company after another, and the phones rang with no answer.
The security checks that I had trained myself to perform were useless in this situation.
At one point, a series of black SUVs, characteristic of the Uber XL, pulled up. A man dressed in a suit offered our group a ride “for $50 each.” While this was an incredibly overpriced offer, my concern was not the money. It was whether I would actually make it home.
Many of the young people around me immediately got in these cars. They even tried to outbid each other.
Plain white cars resembling cabs were telling young people that they were, in fact, cab drivers, or that their meter was broken. People who had too much to drink or felt panicked to get home believed them. (With the help of a friend who made a late-night call to someone we both know, I made it safely home.)
Boston must show concern for this public safety issue, occurring every weekend in the city, before it is too late.