A bevy of commuters explode on the Twittersphere following last Friday's BART strike. Photo: Sarah McClure

A strike from BART, the nation’s fifth largest rail system, introduced new users to an alternative form of local transit: ride-sharing services.

Across the board, the major ride-sharing communities saw a significant increase in downloads and social media mentions during the strike.

On Friday, Sidecar morning ride requests jumped 60 percent—almost double than the previous Monday, said Margaret Ryan, vice president of communications at Sidecar. The number of new riders had also nearly tripled.

“Monday was a record morning for shared rides across the Bay Bridge,” said Ryan.

Third-party analytic service, Tweet Binder shows that ride-sharing services Uber, Lyft and Sidecar experienced major boosts in the Twitter-sphere. The increase came from new app users signing up, users tweeting their company hashtags and users interacting with ride-sharing companies for support and to commend them for reliable service.

Using Tweet Binder, Mission Local presents the following reports, which show Tweet statistics over the past seven days.

The interactive report shows the analytics behind tweets that mention the handles “Uber,” “Lyft” or “Sidecar,” alone, or in combination with, #BART and/or #BARTstrike.


Ride-sharing companies provided financial incentives for downloading their app or mentioning them on social media.

Sidecar, for example, offered a $5 credit to users if they tweeted a photo or posted an Instagram of their Sidecar during the strike. Lyft told users to use a code to receive a $10 credit on Monday, the fourth day of the strike.

Many commuters welcomed the incentives and shared their thoughts:

Eat n Run (@Eat2FinishLine) thanked Uber for taking her to the city marathon last weekend: “@Uber_SF to the rescue! Chauffeuring me to the city for the #NikeWomensMarathon! #BARTstrike @Uber”

Sridatta Thatipamala (@sridatta) celebrated having a ride-share at his disposal: “Joke’s on you, BART. I have enough free Uber, Lyft and Instacab vouchers to get around for days. #bubble”

Andrew Lampitt (@AndrewLampitt) offered his forecast: “The winners in BART and future transportation strikes will be #ridesharing”

During the four-day strike, Bay Area ride-sharing newcomer Carma announced its own incentive. “Registered Carma drivers will be rewarded daily with $25 or more for picking up their fellow commuters using the app,” said a message posted on Carma’s website.

Carma announced via Twitter that it had reach 7,000 registered users as of Friday, the first day of the strike.

On Monday, Paul Steinberg, the vice president of business development, was quoted  in MacWorld saying that Carma had reached an average of 800 percent in ride shares that morning.

Another newcomer, InstantCab pitched themselves on the promise of having “fixed fares that never surge,” according to a tweet from the company. The first day of the strike, InstantCab offered $15 off first-time riders with a coupon code. Over the weekend, InstantCab also offered a 10 percent discount for all rides going to and from Treasure Island Music Festival.

AppIQ, an analytics service for tracking apps’ downloads and rankings, indicated that ride-sharing companies experienced a dramatic boost in download usage during the strike.

Lyft saw a peak in users between October 17 and October 20. Similarly, Uber and Sidecar saw a consistent peak during the same period, according to AppIQ.

While glad that the BART crux is resolved, Ryan concluded, “Situations like this really illustrate the important role services like Sidecar play in the Bay Area’s entire transportation ecosystem.”

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Sarah McClure loves the colorful writing, and opportunity to connect to larger issues, that Arts & Culture reporting allows—she reads the Times’ Art Beat often. Here, she’s experiencing art on the street that the LA native is accustomed to seeing whiz-by from car windows. She is a Master's degree candidate at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she is specializing in multimedia, Spanish-language reporting and Latin America.

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  1. And Muni’s ridership went up, and taxis, and AC Transit, and the ferries. So what?

    Oh, please, Mission Local, don’t turn into a rag of technophilia like the Chronicle and HuffPost. You got off to a great start. No need to fawn over the micro-chipsters ad nauseum with articles about tweets.

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