Boston company looks to make ride-sharing 'safer' for women

BOSTON — Many women have a love-hate relationship with ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The convenience is great, but the anxiety level of riding with a man they don’t know can be high.

Now there’s an alternative coming on the market in Boston that let’s both riders -- and drivers -- choose the gender of the person with whom they will be sharing a car.

We asked women in Boston what they would think of being able to guarantee having a female driver. One said that would make her feel better if she had to get a ride late at night. Another said she thought it would be a good idea if she was by herself.

SAFR is an app based service which allows both riders and drivers to make selections based on gender.  It started in Boston a little more than a month ago and already has 100 drivers.

“This is something that is necessary,” said company spokesperson Joanna Humphrey Flynn. “There are people who are vulnerable, and put in situations that make them very vulnerable in our gig economy.”

Initially there were concerns that SAFR’s approach was discriminatory, but the company makes it clear they are offering the service, and job opportunities, to men and women.

MORE: Ride-sharing service just for women to relaunch in Boston

“SAFR does not discriminate on the basis of gender or any other characteristic protected by the law. We are, again, a ride sharing service that focuses on the safety and empowerment of women, and anyone can be part of that conversation,” explained Humphrey Flynn.

Elaine Sayoko had some uncomfortable experiences driving for other services, and is happy she can now earn more money driving later in the evening for SAFR.

“A lot of these things you know, are subtle, and women, I think, because they are exposed to these kinds of behavior have their antennae up, and I don't think men really realize how prevalent that is,” explained Sayoko.

Riders told us they think the service could give them a piece of mine.  Said one young woman, “It’s always nice when I have a female driver.  It just makes me feel more comfortable.”

To limit wait times, SAFR is currently only picking up passengers in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, but will drop off anywhere. As more drivers come onboard, they say will expand their service area.

SAFR costs about 10% more than other services, but the company says that’s because it pays its drivers more.

MORE: Ride-sharing app exclusively for women coming soon