To my embarrassment, I had not experienced an Uber ride until this last weekend. I’d been unfortunate in the choice of places I needed cab rides, and it was only in Silicon Valley that I finally managed to enjoy an Uber ride.
But, I only half managed to enjoy it, although that made the experience all the more valuable. The San Jose Airport has placed so many restrictions on Uber that its drivers shun the airport for picking up passengers, although they’ll happily take you there and drop you off.
So I took a regular cab ride from the airport to Palo Alto. It was a very typical US cab experience – a typical aged Chevy cab, with typical spongy soft suspension, similarly spongy soft seating, re-upholstered with some sort of dirty grey fabric designed (but failing) to hide the dirt, and an uncertain but unpleasant smell hovering in the background.
The driver was also typical, semi-safe and slightly scary in his driving, and as is usually the case, one had no way of knowing if the journey was direct and fair, or roundabout and a rip-off. Upon arriving in Palo Alto, I paid $67 ($58.50 plus tip) for the experience – only a small amount less than the one way airfare from Seattle to San Jose!
For the return to the airport, it was like moving to a different planet. I pulled out my cell phone, fired up the Uber app, immediately saw three or four cars close to where I was, told Uber I wanted to go to the airport, and was given the make/model, color, and registration of the car that would collect me, the driver’s name, and then got to watch on the map as the car’s icon steadily approached.
As promised, the car was there within three minutes. I stepped into – not a generic Chevy, but a less than one year old Toyota Prius, and rather than being in faded greyish colors, it was in pristine white, and perfectly clean. Any sort of commercial for-hire driver that chooses a white interior (the driver proudly told me he specially bought the car for his Uber work) is clearly a very ‘car-proud’ person planning on taking great care of his vehicle!
The personable driver took me to the airport, and I was able to watch his route on his own phone screen as we proceeded there. Upon arrival, after a pleasant ride in a pleasant car with a pleasant driver, I simply thanked him, and left the vehicle – Uber automatically billed my credit card.
Oh yes – the best thing of all? I knew Uber was a bit cheaper, so was hoping that instead of the $67 fare to Palo Alto, I might get away with no more than $50 or so. The actual total charge (tip included)? $20.79.
Yes, less than one third the cost of the regular taxi for a very much nicer ride. And whereas most taxi drivers seem anything but happy, the Uber driver was thrilled with his work for Uber, and not complaining at all at the lower fare (and whatever his ultimate share would end up as) that he got for the ride.
This was the most stunning contrast in experiences possible. Imagine if, instead of paying $1000+ for a squashed coach class seat across the Atlantic, an airline sprung up that sold flights for $300, with business class service and seating! It is the same transformative experience, on the ground, with the taxicab industry.
So why is any council or other regulatory body doing anything other than desperately pleading with Uber to bring service to its district as urgently soon as possible? Why? Aren’t these bodies charged with serving the public and enhancing our access to the best of services out there?
Do we still have local councils insisting we ride in horsedrawn buggies? Are we restricted to dial-up modem access at 56kb to the internet? Are we forbidden from buying automatic washing machines? Is Amazon prevented from selling and delivering goods to our houses?
Why have all these other improvements and evolutions in products and services been generally permitted, but Uber not?
It is hard to avoid smelling a strong stench of corruption wafting out of city halls when we hear of their opposition to Uber and the specious claims of concerns over our safety.
Who among us owes overpriced bad service taxi companies anything? They need to evolve, improve, or perish, and if they don’t or won’t, they deserve to go the way of all the other technologies, products and services that have similarly been obsoleted by progress and improvements.
Uber – highly recommended. Don’t leave home without them.