Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Ain't Your Grandma's Taxi! - Our Review of Uber

Alright! We’re back, and we’ve tried out Uber on three different occasions this weekend. If you don't know what Uber is, then read my overview here.

Overall, I like Uber. It’s modern, it’s more exciting than a cab, and there are a host of other great things about it. There are a couple of things that I wasn’t so fond of, but are not deep-rooted issues. So, since everyone seems to talk about how great Uber is, I’ll start with the negatives. J

1. Drivers don’t seem to follow the routes that the Uber website suggests. This leads to discrepancy in the fare price that you expect and what you end up paying.  If you look at the map that projected for us you can see that it’s a route that goes up Classen all the way from downtown to Penn Square Mall. On Google maps this is measured as a 4.7-mile trip. (Click pictures to enlarge)

Now, if you look at the route that our Uber driver, Richard, took, you can see that he took us on Interstate 235 to the Northwest Expressway, and the trip was 7.34 miles.

That’s a two-and-a-half mile difference, or $5. Our projected fare was $12-$13, and it turned out to be $17.

2. Okay, another issue. Some of the drivers do not know their way around the city. Our second driver took over a half-hour to reach us downtown because he didn't know where 5th Street and Hudson Street were… and his GPS was acting wonky. Luckily, I know the city grid pretty well and was able to get him directed toward us. I had to resort to telling him to drive toward the big, tall building downtown (Devon, of course) until you get to 5th Street. While this was an issue, it ended up being a plus, because we were forced to tell him the route we wanted to go to get to Target today. We told him to take 5th Street to Classen Drive, take a right on Classen and then a left at 23rd Street, and then a right on May Avenue. This trip was 6.19 miles and cost us $16.00, as you can see below.

3. We decided to take Uber back home from Target, and were pleased to have a car arrive in just over 5 minutes upon our summoning. This was great, but, the issue is that this driver took the interstates and the same trip we had made to Target (now heading home) ended up being 9.52 miles and costing $22.00. That’s $8 more than it cost us to get out to Target!

So, this tells me that Uber drivers (the ones that know how to drive the city from years of experience) tend to take more expensive routes as a matter of habit. My recommendation to anyone taking Uber is to request that the drivers take the shortest route and to avoid the interstates; an $8 difference is pretty steep.

Those are the only issues I see, and they can be resolved if you know the shortest route to your destination before getting into the car and communicate this with your driver.

Now, the things that I liked!

1. I love the fact that you can call a car from your computer or your phone (using the free app), and then watch them come to you using their GPS tracking system on a map. That is some space-age shit right there. According to our new carless friend, Anona, the bus system in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has the same capacity, and it makes riding public transit much more convenient. This is the kind of technology that can increase transit ridership in Oklahoma City.

2. I love that the drivers are not full-time cab drivers. We met three equally interesting individuals, none of whom had very much in common, but all of whom were very friendly. We talked about how they got involved with Uber:

 Our first driver is driving for Uber because he had to move to Oklahoma City a few months ago to take care of his mother, and he needed to be able to work odd hours. I can barely express how great it makes me feel to know that there are companies like Uber that give people like our first driver the ability to work at their convenience and take care of important personal matters.

Our second driver is a student at OCU (I don’t know which one.. there seems to be a few) and also needs flexible hours so that he can maintain his studies during the week and work as much as possible on the weekends. Uber is a fairly low-stress job that could be much less taxing on a college student than a lot of the jobs I had as a student.

Our third driver is in commercial real estate, and his kids just finished their first semester in college. He’s got a lot more spare time than he did when they were home last year, so he took the advice of some of his younger co-workers and started driving for Uber. He seemed to love meeting the people he’s driving around, and was happy to be able to make some quick cash in his spare time.

3. I really like to not having to worry about having cash like I do with a taxi or the bus. The financial side of Uber is taken care of through their website and the drivers have next to nothing to do with it. I tried to tip them all, and two of them protested but gave in, and one flat-out refused to take it… so I don’t think they expect a tip. You can ride Uber without any cash on you whatsoever.

So, my overall impression of Uber is a positive one. I recommend that you know your route before you ride so that you can get the best deal. So, give it a try! It's the perfect time for you OKC people - there's a promo code to get your first 3 rides free (up to $20 each). Enter OKCLOVESUBERX to get it!

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  1. He who pays the money is the boss. Next time insist that the driver take the indicated route. Also use their rating system to show your unhappiness, don't be silent.

    1. Great advice; we definitely learned to know our route ahead of time and to not take the predicted route for granted.

  2. It used to be a way to get around taking taxis. It was cheaper and driven by regular people making money on the side. Now it's driven mostly cab drivers and sometimes more expensive than just taking a taxi. Ubereats is good though.
    John Simon