Uber versus Taxi

A few days ago, a friend needed to get home on a rainy morning. He decided to call a cab. “Great. We’ll be there in 15 minutes,” the dispatcher said. Fifteen minutes came and went, no cab. At twenty-five minutes, he calls back. “He’s just running a bit late.” At forty-five minutes, he gives up and calls another cab company.

“Great. We’ll be there in 15 minutes.” Fifteen minutes come and go. Another twenty minutes come and go. He’s wanting to get home.

Finally, I give up, and say, “Let’s just see about an Uber.” I fire up the app, and there is an UberX less than five minutes away. It comes in four minutes; my friend hadn’t even gotten his bag packed up again or his shoes on. Also, the final fare was about 50% less.

The taxi industry reminds me a bit of Ma Bell (via Lily Tomlin): “We don’t care, we don’t have to…we’re the phone company.” Having a de-facto monopoly for so long, they have not had to compete on any basis.

In general, I’ve enjoyed my Uber experiences, even the ones involving surge pricing. But, where I have had issues, it has always involved trips to/from less desirable neighborhoods. It seems like the “sharing economy” has some definite class issues: in general, it works really well for middle / upper class white (mostly male) people, but seems to work a lot less well for others. (Except, insofar, as the suppliers are lower-class…)