Uber Cool: A Transportation Trend

September 16th, 2014 by Jason Hartman | 1 Comment »

If you’ve traveled in any major city, you’ve probably heard about Uber. It’s drawing a lot of attention lately, and for good reason–it’s cheaper and quicker than a taxi. It works through apps designed to connect riders and drivers, and (assuming you meet just a few qualifications) nearly anyone can drive.

Available in 42 countries and 200 cities across the world, Uber became popular quickly and soon offered a competitive alternative to the taxi. Unsurprisingly, taxi drivers resisted the service, protesting the company and calling it an illegal taxi operation. They questioned the safety of the operation internationally.

How pricing works

Part of the reason for this is the competitive pricing offered by Uber. While pricing is similar to metered taxis, it goes entirely through Uber–and not the driver. If the car is going faster than 11 mph, you pay for distance. Otherwise, you’re paying for time. Once you’ve reached your destination, you simply exit the vehicle. Tip is included with your fare.

During high travel times (holidays, poor weather), Uber prices increase to a “surge price” to attract more drivers. Riders are notified when they sign in to the app and always have the option of changing their mind.

Everything is taken care of via the app–so there’s no exchange of money, which alleviates the awkwardness of exchanging cash and giving a tip.

Driver requirements and safety

While Uber drivers are not vetted or monitored in exactly the same ways as taxi drivers, they are regulated. Uber drivers need to own a car with proper insurance, and that car needs to be in good working order. You’ve got to have a driver’s license and pass a background check and DMV check.

Once you are a driver (it’s free to sign up), a percentage of your fees goes toward getting more riders, developing better tools, and protecting your legal interests. You get an Uber phone, and $10 is deducted every week to cover the cost–but other than that, the money belongs to you.

You get riders based on your proximity to them and drivers are paid weekly. Drivers work whenever and wherever they want, but the company keeps track of routes, etc to ensure safety.

What riders get to know

Uber offers an advantage over traditional taxis because it provides the rider with a bit of extra information. Once your request has been accepted, you get to find out the drivers name (they already know yours too). You get to know the make and model of the car, and are able to see where they’re at enroute to you.
It can be a very handy feature, especially if you’re waiting on a ride after a long flight, are in a hurry, etc.

Because the cars are owned by people who use them for personal use, they’re cleaner, smell good, are newer, well taken care of, etc.
Smart marketing

Uber didn’t become popular by accident–they’ve worked hard to be innovative marketers of their service. Occasionally, they offer specialty vehicles (like the DeLorean DMC-12). Othertimes, they’ll extend their services to include ice cream truck location requests, visits with kittens, ferry or helicopter service. They’ve delivered christmas trees and show no signs of stopping their innovative marketing approach. Basically, they show no signs of stopping.

How much money can they make?

The amount of money one can make as an Uber driver varies based upon the number of hours you choose to drive and the city in which you’re driving. Some use Uber as full time employment, while others use it to supplement their income. Uber claims that a person could make $90,000 in New York–but they’d be driving a lot of hours.

The estimate is a bit high and is only applicable to the UberX drivers, who are licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s. Plus, the figure doesn’t account for gas, milage, and how often the car is without a passenger.

Uber may not be a great choice for full time employment, but if you’ve got a little space in your car and an hour or so after work (during peak times) it might be worth your while.

What’s the fuss all about?

While many countries have fought against Uber, we’ve seen a lot of outrage over the service in the United States. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, in May of 2011, sent a cease and desist letter, claiming Uber was simply an unlicensed taxi service. Others have made similar accusations.

Uber responded by changing the name to Uber (it was UberCab) and continued business. After a few minor setbacks, the company continued operations under the California Public Utilities Commission agreement that gave Uber and similar companies a new category of service, called transportation network companies. This didn’t satisfy taxi drivers, who continue to protest.

There have been several lawsuits in several cities since 2011, but Uber is still going strong–mostly. In March of 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to restrict the number of drivers in such programs, which pleased taxi drivers. Then, in April of the same year, the ordinance was suspended by a coalition that acquired almost 40,000 signatures.

And in Virginia, Uber (and competitors) have halted operations following a cease and desist letter.

The company hasn’t been without it’s scandal, either. A driver hit and killed a six year old girl in 2013 and the company was sued. In 2014, taxi companies blocked major roadways across Europe. The company has also had to issue an apology for toying with competitors by having drivers order rides and then cancel them.

The bottom line

But the bottom line is this–Uber provides an affordable service for the traveler or otherwise careless commuter in any city. It’s interesting to meet new drivers who are good communicators and generally interesting people, it’s nice to sit in a clean car, and it feels good to know that you aren’t being totally swindled.

Uber represents a new kind of economy and it shows no signs of stopping–get in and buckle up.

(photo credit: David Holt London via photopin cc)

Read more from Jetsetter:

How to Be Great at Business Travel

The Ins and Outs of Repatriation

The Jetsetter Team

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