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Private taxis take to the streets...and skies?

A Lyft car with the company's signature pink moustache in San Francisco.

Need a fast way to get to the Hamptons this weekend? Open up your smartphone and push a button; the Uber helicopter will soon be ready at your service.

According to the car service company, Uber will be offering helicopter transport all day on July 3rd, specifically shuttling passengers from Manhattan to the Hamptons.

"On July 3, from noon to 8 p.m., Uber users can use their app to get picked up anywhere in the city, driven to the nearest heliport -- at Wall Street, West 30th Street, or East 34th Street -- and flown out to East Hampton airport," New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer reported. The UberCHOPPER for a group of five, including transport to and from the heliport, will set you back $3,000.

Publicity gimmick? Almost definitely, but P.R. stunt or not, app-based car services like Uber -- including Lyft and Sidecar -- are gaining popularity amongst smartphone users who are trying to avoid unreliable and often expensive cab rides.

Lyft and Sidecar pair ride-seekers with everyday commuters who taxi in their own cars, while Uber offers higher-end private car service. The services are already becoming viable alternatives in some places, including San Francisco, where transit strikes have shut down the public transportation for many commuters in the area. Bloomberg reports Uber demand jumped up nearly 50 percent in just one week.

But not all are supportive of the transportation startups. In Los Angeles, the city's Department of Transportation taxicab administrator sent out cease-and-desist letters to the three companies, citing the services have "no permits or license to transport passengers for hire" and were bringing increased competition to normal taxicab services that are regulated within the city. Uber, Sidecar and Lyft have all stated they'll continue to operate for the time being.

Have you used any of these app-based car services? What do you think? Let us know by tweeting @MarketplaceAPM.

About the author

Chau Tu is the former assistant web producer for Marketplace.

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