How to Use Carmel, St. Louis' First Smartphone-Based Car Service

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Need a ride? An app for affordable private cars is coming to St. Louis. - CARMEL
  • Carmel
  • Need a ride? An app for affordable private cars is coming to St. Louis.

It's not Uber. It's not Lyft.

Turns out, New York City's Carmel is the first app-based ride-hailing service to cross the finish line into St. Louis, and it beat the competition by following the rules.

"Our motto in general, in life, since we started 30 years ago is: 'We compete by complying,'" says Carmel Limousine CEO Avik Kabessa. "Complying is a second nature."

The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission approved Carmel's license to operate in the city and county on Tuesday morning after the car service jumped through a series of regulatory hurdles, including a three-month application process.

"St. Louis is a great city," Kabessa tells Daily RFT. "We had demand here before, and we couldn't answer it. We are happy now we will be able to."

Uber, the most well-known of all the car apps, has publicly criticized St. Louis for letting local laws get in the way of this growing business, but the taxi commission isn't budging.

See also: Taxis, Beware: St. Louis to Get First App-Based Car Service, Carmel

"In some markets, [app-driven ride-sharing] services have become entangled in claims about price gouging, lack of background checks for drivers, stiffing drivers and refusing liability for injured riders," says Louis Hamilton, chair of the St. Louis taxi commission. "We expect a much smoother entry here because we have good regulations -- and because Carmel has gone all the way through the certification process."

Carmel debuts its app and service on March 3 (a bit too late for Mardi Gras -- sorry, St. Louis.)

Need a ride? Here's how it works:

First, choose your pickup location. You can move a pin on a map to the right spot, type in the address manually or choose from your previously selected favorites.

Then, choose your destination just like you did for pickup.

Continue reading for more of our how-to guide and more instructional videos. Let's say you don't want to enter your home or work address every time you book a trip. Here's how to upload those locations to your favorites:

Unlike many other ride-share apps, Carmel lets customers book a car in advance. If you need the car now, the app will tell you how many cars are available and how far away they are.

Once you schedule your trip, choose your car. Want a luxury sedan? A mini-van? It's up to you.

You can upload your credit card details long before your book your first trip, which means no searching in your wallet for cash or a tip. You can select an option to automatically pay and tip your driver 20 percent after each tip, or you can adjust the amount and tip yourself.

If your car is booked for an immediate trip, the app will tell you how far away the car is.

Here's how to get airline miles every time you book a trip using Carmel:

You can also use the app to post your future trips into your calendar.

Carmel also offers an emergency contact option for parents and employers.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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