Goodbye, 1-800-BLUE-VAN
January 3, 2020 5:28 AM   Subscribe

 
That is a loss. I relied on Super Shuttle.
posted by NotLost at 5:32 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Agree, this is a loss, I preferred them to Uber to get to the airport when we traveled as a family.

Although my first introduction to Super Shuttle was the terrifying ride I took from SFO to my friend's apartment in 1996. The highlight was witnessing the van sheer off the side mirror of a parked car and keep going.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:48 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Established company which follows regulations undercut by predatory competition that ignores regulations, story at 11.

This is one of the major problems with the gig economy - their entire existence is built around eschewing the law and regulations that their competitors follow to operate cheaply, then call that "disruption" to hide the truth.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:11 AM on January 3 [53 favorites]


That is unfortunate; I hope some other company steps in to fill the niche.

Although my personal experience wasn't exactly the most stellar—when I tried to book a ride with them, they were only able to give me a huge, cable-tv-repair-size time window for when they were going to show up. I'm not really surprised they succumbed to rideshare services, if that was the best they could do.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:13 AM on January 3 [9 favorites]


If you’re old enough to remember life before touchscreens, and have ever traveled in the US on a budget, you probably know SuperShuttle.

I used to travel by air fairly frequently, and never heard of them. Were they something that you just kind of had to know about? (Most of my air travel was between NYC and Chicago.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:22 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


(Most of my air travel was between NYC and Chicago.)

Those are cities with decent public transportation to the airport. Some places don't have that.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:57 AM on January 3 [15 favorites]


My single personal experience with Super Shuttle was a terrifying ride from LAX to downtown for SIGGRAPH one year. That involved like 4 stops before my mine. On the way back to the airport I found someone to share a cab and we paid $7.50 less each, stayed under two times the speed limit, and had no intermediate stops.

With poorly maintained vehicles, terrifying drivers, and prices that aren't really that much cheaper than other modes, including taxis, it's a wonder they lasted as long as they did.
posted by straw at 7:11 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Ugh. I’ve been a SuperShuttle customer for years. I’ve always used them (when possible) when traveling to cities without public transportation options for the airport. Stupid Uber.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:12 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Ah, crap; I better let ms scruss know, as she's expecting a SuperShuttle booking tomorrow between Liberty, MO (population 31,000, roughly 15 miles NE of Kansas City) and MCI. Liberty's public transit consists of one bus in the morning into KCMO and a return bus at night. There is no scheduled transit to the airport (19 miles WNW of the city). You have to rely on family, friends, private cars or (until last week) SuperShuttle.
posted by scruss at 7:14 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


They really are (were) a terrible company. Not everything is entirely Uber's fault.
posted by Optamystic at 7:23 AM on January 3 [17 favorites]


I used a similar service and I'm sort of boggling. The van I used had a flat $35 fee no matter where you went. If you live farther out than a $35 fare, Uber & Lyft would be MORE expensive. Idk if Supershuttle worked that way, though.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 7:28 AM on January 3


I've used SuperShuttle and never had a problem with them; never nearly as exciting as a cab ride from the airport in New Orleans that was pretty much a real life version of Mario Kart. Just last month I was in San Antonio and when I went to their website it said they didn't offer service at that time and location. I thought it was odd that they wouldn't offer service to the airport from an area full of hotels on a Sunday afternoon on a busy tourist weekend. In retrospect I guess they were already preparing to shut down.
posted by TedW at 7:40 AM on January 3


Ugh, that's a pity, I used to use them to get home from SFO if I had a friend drop me off the other way. However, as other people said -- it was hard to trust them to get you there on time. At least the couple of times I used it that way, you couldn't schedule a time to be at the airport, they wanted to know what flight you were taking, and then they'd decide when you needed to get to the airport. Which did not particularly match with my idea of when I wanted to get to the airport. I like a lot of buffer time, because I'd rather sit for an hour at the gate and dink around on my phone than miss a flight. So they'd pick you up, and then drive around picking up other people while you anxiously watched the clock.
posted by tavella at 7:51 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I was on another site/travel-forum and they were discussing the news. I'd say > 80% were talking about the bad experiences they'd had over the years. Of course the more satisfied people would have less reason to speak up.
posted by aleph at 7:56 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I fly frequently for work and used to use SuperShuttle when it was available.
But in my experience service started degrading of late.
posted by doctornemo at 7:59 AM on January 3


I've used SuperShuttle and it was .. okay. It was a good option if I wanted to save a few bucks and didn't mind losing an hour or more in transit. Which is the sort of service that a lot of folks need if they're traveling on a tight budget. I've never had a really bad SuperShuttle experience that I can recall, but it wasn't my first choice, either.

It does feel like a service that could have been run better and more profitably if they improved their operations. It should be possible to have more of the convenience of Uber and Lyft without the labor exploitation.
posted by jzb at 8:16 AM on January 3


It feels like people forgot how quickly everything went from not being online at all to being extremely online.

Part of the appeal of Uber/Lyft was absolutely that you could see where the car that was going to pick you up was on a GPS map, showing you how long they would be to get to you, etc.

I mean, Domino's didn't even have a website until 1996, and it wasn't until years later that they started offering online ordering. Even Domino's, a huge international chain, took until the last two years to have a GPS map of their pizza delivery drivers. You don't think people who order pizza haven't been demanding that since the advent of Uber and especially since UberEats and similar. Hell, even Greyhound buses took forever to get a GPS map of where their buses are. These are, frankly, larger companies than SuperShuttle, and it took a decade for them to play catch up.

Investing in that kind of GPS mapping and phone/internet applications for showing it (and doing it securely) is actually pretty expensive and hard to do, and you can bet your ass that a business like SuperShuttle was already running on paper thin margins and they were operating like a pre-internet business usually does, which is that they don't have the mad capital to start adding the techwiz odds and ends to get people to continue to use their service, especially if they are competing with people effectively getting paid less than minimum wage but have high tech tomfoolery running the show.

So while I agree that they likely could have improved their customer service (I mean, what company can't? It feels like customer service is the first thing to get cut these days), I largely disagree that:

1. They saw the need to create a GPS app for their drivers so people could see where their drivers were and sign up online etc.

2. That they likely even had the capital to begin dropping on such a project, even if they did see the writing on the wall. Uber/Lyft were able to create those applications and massive server backend with venture capital.

3. Who in this company would know how to develop any such thing, or even know how to hire someone who could? It's a joke to expect that of them and expect them to be able to compete in an internet-connected-world.

Oh, venture capitalists weren't tossing money at the doors of SuperShuttle to do the same because SuperShuttle was actually paying real employees and not "disrupting" the market by employing an army of contractors? Big surprise, gee I wonder why they didn't have the money to create something similar. HMMMMMM. /s
posted by deadaluspark at 8:31 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]


That's a shame, though I never used them because the idea of it taking longer always broke the part of my brain that panicked about missing my flight (going to the airport) and the part that needed to be back at home as immediately as possible (coming from the airport).

Still, if one of the reasons was "In the past few years, the platforms have also started letting users book rides ahead of time", then that's really really a shame. Because I've used that service from both Uber and Lyft, and it doesn't work. You put in the time you need to be picked up, and about 5 minutes before that time the app activates and calls for a ride just as if you did it yourself -- so if there are no cars available, or no one nearby, you're SOL. In fact, once I realized that, most of the time I would belt-and-suspenders it by calling for a car at the same time that I had one scheduled, and then cancelling the one that didn't show up. Because it pretty much always didn't show up. And after getting stuck at SWF at 11 pm because the no cars were available despite our having scheduled one, and no traditional cabs would drive us to NYC that late at night so we had to book a car service to come from the city and get us and bring us home, I don't ever use that feature ever anymore. A Super Shuttle - if they'd had one - would have been real nice.

Oh gig economy, what won't you kill?
posted by Mchelly at 8:33 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]


.

I used them many times with no headache other than a little slow. They were the only meaningful option in many markets.

My experience with rideshare services has been cheaper, occasionally pleasantly quirky, and multiple times unregulatedly bad (racist, homophobic, or extolling Fearless Leader’s virtue at length.
posted by cupcakeninja at 8:39 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


SuperShuttle did have GPS tracking, at least the last several times I used them. It wasn’t via an app, but they would send me a text with a link that opened in my phone browser to track the vehicle. It generally seemed to work, and I never experienced any major problems with them.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:50 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I used supershuttle frequently and wish that a similarly convenient-ish option were still available. But the gig economy vs Supershuttle framing in this thread seems misplaced: Supershuttle was an early adopter of gig economy techniques. Since 2000 or so, drivers worked as independent contractors for local franchisees, allowing the company to disclaim responsibility for all kinds of things. They fought unionization of their drivers in court (and won at the NLRB this year in denying that their workers were employees). In the CPI story above, the story of the immigrant driver sitting in his freezing-cold van in the early morning waiting for rides looks a lot like stories about Uber or Lyft.
posted by col_pogo at 8:53 AM on January 3 [17 favorites]


Oh, venture capitalists weren't tossing money at the doors of SuperShuttle to do the same because SuperShuttle was actually paying real employees and not "disrupting" the market by employing an army of contractors?

None of the SuperShuttle drivers actually work for the company, they are franchisees. In fact, when you sign up, they tell you what types of vans are acceptable and what color to tell the automotive painters to use and you handle everything yourself. Scheduling is just logging in some website somewhere and accepting rides you want to do.

I learned all this becausE I was flying back home to LA from Boulder in 2013, and the scheduling software said I had to get picked up at 4:00am for a 9am flight out of Denver. I was the only one in the van, so I spent the 40 minute driving asking the driver about SuperShuttle.

BTW, not only was I the only one in the van, I showed up so early I had to wait an hour for the airline people to get to work so I could check my bags, and then had to wait 3 hours for my flight. It was such a bad experience that even though I’ve taken 100+ trips to an airport since then, not one included a ride with SuperShuttle.
posted by sideshow at 9:12 AM on January 3 [10 favorites]


A SuperShuttle used to park outside the kitchen window of my studio apartment & every time I saw it my brain would go "I'll have the soup." Every time. Uncontrollably. For years. RIP SuperShuttle.
posted by taquito sunrise at 9:26 AM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Yeah, not terribly surprised by this - I used SuperShuttle for years until I ended up with an office next to LAX that I could park at. Besides the restrictive pickup times (in line with sideshow's experiences of being there before the airport employees), I always got vaguely nauseous on the rides too - from a combination of being a terrible passenger and bouncy vans.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:41 AM on January 3


We had the most amazing SuperShuttle driver the last time we flew into LAX. He told my kids jokes and gave them some of those tricky kid logic questions. He asked my husband and I what we did for a living, then quizzed me on my husband’s field and vice versa. This man was incredibly well-read and he was able to ask sophisticated questions off the cuff. The whole ride was much more entertaining than any shuttle ride has a right to be. We really appreciated the effort he put in. I’m sorry to hear about SuperShuttle, and I sure hope that man has secured a good job somewhere else...
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:02 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Can't say I'm surprised by this either, to be honest I wasn't aware they were still in business. My last SuperShuttle ride was in 2014, after repeated bad experiences I decided I'd had enough. The routings to/from IAD always drove me nuts - from Springfield I was always the first on/last off, with multiple stops in Arlington (way out of the way), the vans had terrible suspension, and every single driver managed to get lost/confused at some point. Not fun when you're jetlagged and feel like garbage.

Now I bite the bullet and pay for a rideshare or a taxi (usually Lyft/Uber to the airport, go to the taxi rank to get back home). Much faster and less hassle. I hate the gig economy as much as anyone else, but I have yet to find a better option for airport transit.
posted by photo guy at 10:05 AM on January 3


Investing in that kind of GPS mapping and phone/internet applications for showing it (and doing it securely)

Is much less expensive than you'd think, about $1000 per vehicle a decade ago, and even less today thanks to cheaper hardware appropriate for the task. There exist service providers who sell software packages for taxi, limo, and shuttle services, the cost of which is included in my figure above. (Sans support contract, anyway. They'll give away the software for a long support contract, so lacking a large capital budget isn't an issue if you have vehicles already)
posted by wierdo at 10:06 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I've used SuperShuttle a fair amount for early or late flights to/from Dulles because it's substantially cheaper than a car service and the drive is miserable to make, and sometimes at the other end. Fairly often, I was the only passenger in the van from central Prince George's County to the airport, which seemed very wasteful, but was relatively cheap for me. I've had mixed experiences with them, to be honest. The worst was when they simply canceled a scheduled pickup from DCA one night, and the strangest was my most recent Dulles trip, on which the driver pulled over on the side of the Dulles Toll Road so that the other passenger could get out and pee on the side of the road, in broad daylight. Now that you can schedule pickups with Uber I guess I have an alternative to SuperShuttle or a pricey car service, but I feel for the drivers who now have to find a new job, and many of whom bought vehicles specifically for this job and are not stuck with no income and car notes.
posted by wintermind at 10:20 AM on January 3


Part of the appeal of Uber/Lyft was absolutely that you could see where the car that was going to pick you up was on a GPS map, showing you how long they would be to get to you, etc.

Eh. For some folks, I guess? The important thing for me with Lyft/Uber was simply the ability to summon a car without needing to hail a taxi or figure out how to call a taxi service in a city I'd never been to before and may never be in again. Also not having to fuss with paying in the vehicle is nice. (I still remember haggling about whether the driver would accept a credit card, and all that.)

I don't know that all the GPS mapping, etc. is necessary for a business like SuperShuttle to have raised its game to an acceptable level to compete with Uber/Lyft. I don't feel like it was necessary for them to duplicate Uber to compete, but they definitely needed to improve the experience judging by most people in this thread and folks I've talked to about this in other fora.
posted by jzb at 10:25 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I just used super shuttle to get to SFO, and they had a map showing where the driver was.

Just try using Uber or Lyft to get to or from an airport as a family of four, loaded with suitcases, strollers, and child car seats.
posted by dbscissors at 12:28 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


the strangest was my most recent Dulles trip, on which the driver pulled over on the side of the Dulles Toll Road so that the other passenger could get out and pee on the side of the road, in broad daylight.

Maybe weird, but a better option than in the van, at least.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:30 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, it's bad that there are fewer options for passengers, and that an investment company has hollowed out another business.

On the other, oh my gosh, once I could start using rideshare, I was OVERJOYED to not need SuperShuttle anymore. Calling a taxi company for a ride out in the DC suburbs was completely unreliable, when I needed to get to the airport on time, but I never had an experience on SuperShuttle that wasn't terrible/nauseating/terrifying. I remember one notable trip in which the driver nearly mowed down a guy on a bike, bike guy yelled, SuperShuttle driver STOPPED THE CAR to get out and PHYSICALLY THREATEN THE BIKE GUY, hopped back in, continued on our terrifying way. Maybe it's just a DC-area thing, but it was always unpleasant at best and life-threatening at worst. That company needed to change a lot to compete nowadays.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:50 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Just try using Uber or Lyft to get to or from an airport as a family of four, loaded with suitcases, strollers, and child car seats.

Precisely. As a single traveler, using Uber might eclipse the somewhat shambolic experience of SuperShuttle, but when you really need someone to show up at your door at 3:30am for an international flight who will accommodate some weird combination of luggage for a group of adults and children who will still provide an uncomfortable but safe and functional ride to the airport and get you there on time guaranteed... I think there may be a major gap there.
posted by eschatfische at 2:03 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I used to take the SuperShuttle from BWI to Annapolis and later from Atlanta to Athens, and both were absolutely terrifying. Public transit from BWI to Annapolis has gotten much better since then, and a few years ago, MetroBus added several daily Atlanta to Athens runs. Replacing the Super Shuttle with actual functional public transit seems like the best option.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:09 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


 Part of the appeal of Uber/Lyft was absolutely that you could see where the car that was going to pick you up was on a GPS map

Plus, you can also see them fucking off in the other direction when they blow off your ride for a more profitable one. Trying to get a rideshare from one of the Florida resort/conference hotels is like bloody dodgems.

ms scruss confirms that the news of SuperShuttle's demise in Liberty, MO is greatly overstated.
posted by scruss at 2:28 PM on January 3


My worst SuperShuttle experiences were both in DC. One time, I was coming off a flight from Rome, with a fever I'd later find out was the beginning of swine flu. I was coming from Dulles, where the options aren't great and I was exhausted. The heat was blasting, I had a fever, and then the driver DROVE PAST MY BUILDING. I figured he'd just missed it, so I croaked out a "hey" - and it turned out he'd actually intended to drop someone else off 15 blocks away and then loop back around to my place. What?? And the worst part is I couldn't convince him to take me home first. And I was so tired and feverish that I started crying, to my embarrassment.

The other was when I was moving out of DC - I'd shipped a bunch of stuff but had two suitcases and a backpack with me, and it was pouring rain, DC summer thunderstorm. The van was an hour late, and actually several drove past my building while I was waiting! It was super stressful because I'd spent all day cleaning out my apartment, and the new tenant was coming that night. If I missed my flight I was screwed. I spent about a half hour on the phone with customer service, until a van finally came. I'm convinced one of the vans that drove past was mine, but they never admitted it. (I did make my flight though!)

I'm not going to miss SuperShuttle.
posted by lunasol at 2:32 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, and for some reason, we don't have SuperShuttle in Seattle - we have ShuttleExpress instead, which seems to be basically the same thing. I've taken it a few times, it's ... fine.
posted by lunasol at 2:34 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I realize this was part of the business model and etc., but if you lived in a big city the hardest part of supershuttle was not knowing, on the way back at least, how many far flung stops you'd make while dropping people off, such that your ride home could be 30 mins or 2 hours long.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:53 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Yeah they were very unreliable on getting to you destination. hey at least for Dulles the Silver Line should be open soon!
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:17 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Super Shmuttle will rebrand now...
posted by Anoplura at 3:19 PM on January 3


Established company which follows regulations undercut by predatory competition that ignores regulations, story at 11.

This is one of the major problems with the gig economy - their entire existence is built around eschewing the law and regulations that their competitors follow to operate cheaply, then call that "disruption" to hide the truth.


Hot take is pretty much wrong, story at 11.

First of all, Super Shuttle's biggest obstacle was Super Shuttle.

Second, laws and regulations are supposed to make things better. Mostly they were shielding existing industry from competition. Thank dog for predatory competitors exposing how indefensible some of these laws and regulations truly are.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:31 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Mostly they were shielding existing industry from competition.

No, they really weren't. The reason why nobody was rushing into the livery space was because livery has always been a high capital, low margin business that is difficult to make money in - which is why neither Uber nor Lyft have actually made a profit, and in fact have to subsidize rides to a significant amount. Not to mention all the ways these companies have been horrible in their own rights, with their abuse of drivers, outright contempt for regulation, mistreatment of user data, downplaying of sexual assault, etc.

The gig economy has been built on tearing down laws to funnel wealth to the 0.1% by extracting it from our pockets. Jalopnik had today an excellent piece about how the Uber/Postmates lawsuit against AB5 is an indictment of how hollow the gig economy and the American economy are for people.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:13 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Count me as another person whose experiences with SuperShuttle spanned a wide range from "frustratingly inconvenient" to "traumatic near-death experience I am not kidding."

I had to rely on them for a prior job that refused to pay for airport taxis (and also balked at us using public transportation when available.) SuperShuttle did itself in.
posted by desuetude at 6:46 PM on January 3


It is true that Uber is shit. It is also true that taxi (and shuttle) businesses are capital intensive and so aren't complete money printing machines (in general, exceptions exist in some localities) and indeed are kinda hard to do well in a way that works well for all the stakeholders. It is also true that many cities and states have or had godawful protectionist regulations that only exacerbated the tendency for customer experience to be the last priority and almost entirely unenforced consumer protections.

This is one of those "yes, and" situations that the Internet has made unnecessarily hard.
posted by wierdo at 7:13 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Rarely ever rode Super Shuttle because it was always the highest-priced - the Hertz of door-to-door vans. It wasn't them but once I had a hair-raising ride with one of 'em 'cause the driver kept consulting and fiddling with his GPS display -- while he was driving on the freeway, in the left lane!
posted by Rash at 7:37 PM on January 3


Ugh, that's a pity, I used to use them to get home from SFO if I had a friend drop me off the other way. However, as other people said -- it was hard to trust them to get you there on time.

My GF recently tried to use them going home from SFO after an evening flight was delayed a couple of hours and she ended up getting there just in time to miss the last BART train out of SFO. She set up a 12:30 Supershuttle, but then the SS departure time got changed to 1:30. AM. In the morning. She decided Fuck This Shit and, since she's not set up for Uber/Lyft (being wary, not without justification, of the sexual assault reports relating to said services) she ended up taking a $50 taxi ride back to her apartment.

Can't say it's a good thing to lose an alternative to Uber/Lyft (even if sounded like they were a proto-Uber the way the drivers were more "contractors" than employees). Still, based on my gf's experiences and those of fellow posters, it's safe to say that at least some of SS's troubles were self-inflicted.
posted by gtrwolf at 9:02 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that sentence should have read "since she's not set up for Uber/Lyft (being wary OF THEM, not without justification, of the sexual assault reports relating to said services)". (Very big difference there...)
posted by gtrwolf at 9:14 AM on January 5


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