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Sidecar isn't letting riders make up prices anymore

By Matt Lindner

For Sun-Times Media

Sidecar has put the brakes on its “suggested donation” model.

This month, the on-demand rideshare service began charging a set rate per ride instead of letting passengers contribute as much as they’d like. Sidecar says its new fees run 30 to 40 percent less than cab fares.

The move is an effort to increase Sidecar’s fleet, which like rivals Lyft and UberX relies on regular folks using their own cars.

“Our drivers rely on us as a fun, interesting way to make some extra cash with their car,” says Sidecar spokeswoman Margaret Ryan. “They’ve also told us they would drive more frequently if they could count on reliable payment for every trip.”

The company declined to provide revenue or ridership figures.

The Sidecar app asks users to enter pickup and dropoff locations so it’s able to calculate how much the trip will cost ahead of time. Riders can add a tip if the service was exceptional.

The company also introduced minimum fares this month in Boston and Seattle. Last month Sidecar dispensed with donations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it’s headquartered.

Lyft is now the only rideshare app in Chicago using the donation model. UberX’s fares are calculated as you go like a cab’s but with slightly lower base and per-mile prices.