How Uber conquered London
May 2, 2016 9:43 AM   Subscribe

 
I feel like this should come with a warning about this article's use of the word "nurdling"

wtf is nurdling
posted by gusandrews at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Instead, Howard focused on what he was good at, which was getting sceptical drivers into the office, showing them how Uber worked and giving them a free iPhone.
And that's Uber's business model in a nutshell: Dumping.

1) Attract drivers with impossibly-good incentives
2) Enter the market, offering heavily-subsidized rides
3) Put competitors out of business
4) Stay on top by keeping prices low, but lowering the drivers' cut.
5) Once competition has been thoroughly squashed, start raising prices for customers, keeping driver pay constant.

Right now, in most markets, Uber is somewhere between 2 and 4.

Uber is a sketchy scam. It does not deserve the level of attention that it has gotten.
posted by schmod at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2016 [42 favorites]


When drivers are idle, waiting for a customer, are their cars on or off? If off, then the increase in rides gives an increase in maintenance and fuel consumption which is, of course, externalized to the employees. Additionally, more miles driven gives a higher chance of accident. Private profits, externalized risks.

I don't doubt that the London taxi market needed to be expanded (as did Boston's and to a lesser extent New York's). It's just a shame that rent-seeking assholes were the ones to do it.

I have a dream of an app that disrupts Uber by giving shorter distances than required and then just paying the driver directly for the remaining trip.
posted by Hactar at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've found I can save a lot of time by mentally appending the word "scam" every time I see the word "internet "these days.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right now, in most markets, Uber is somewhere between 2 and 4.

2.5: Airbnb and Uber join new lobbying group to take on regulators
posted by not_the_water at 10:20 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


To understand how this company is worth $60bn, you need to stop thinking.
posted by Falconetti at 10:22 AM on May 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Uber is a sketchy scam. It does not deserve the level of attention that it has gotten.

Uber has a very problematic business model that is becoming increasingly common and may well force a rethinking of some basic assumptions about how the social safety net functions. But it is not a scam. It is part of the changing future of transportation, in which each individual adult in the U.S. spends the second-largest portion of his or her income, after rent, on a personal vehicle that sits idle for about 22 hours a day.

I spent the majority of my adult life in some of the few American cities (Boston, New York) where car ownership was not required. By the time I moved to my current home in Ann Arbor, I could not for the life of me make the financial math of car ownership add up. Cars are so fucking expensive. They are bad for the environment, bad for your health, and bad for your pocketbook. But because Ann Arbor has Uber (and Lyft) I can live without a car. I mostly walk and bike everywhere, but I take an Uber approximately once every two weeks - for a big grocery store trip, home from the Detroit airport, to the vet in an emergency.

In a world where Ubers exist, the money I spend on them would not go to taxi drivers with health insurance and higher wages. It would go towards a car I do not want, towards the cost of fuel for short trips I didn't really need to take. I absolutely believe that the government needs to figure out how to regulate companies like this, and I fully expect that the cost for Ubers may rise as they do - but to dismiss it has simply a scam is drastically short-sighted. Transportation on demand is life changing, and it's the way of the future.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:34 AM on May 2, 2016 [44 favorites]


I think schmod's point is that it won't become generally apparent that it is a scam until the market gets to stage 5 on his list, he suggests its at 2-4 at the moment, dependent on markets.
posted by biffa at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Uber is a sketchy scam.

So they're undifferentiated from most taxi commissions in that sense.
posted by griphus at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


In a world where Ubers exist, the money I spend on them would not go to taxi drivers with health insurance and higher wages.

I'm curious, what is the problem with taxis? Is it the cost? Or is it more about convenience - that they don't have an app and require you to call in for a cab? Not trying to troll, mostly trying to understand why someone would prefer Uber over a cab.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:43 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


At least in NYC, Uber cars are generally much, much cleaner than cabs and car service and the drivers are a lot less sketchy as far as things like "being licensed," "amount of payment," "rules of the road", and "knowing where the fuck they're going" is concerned.
posted by griphus at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The problem with taxis is that in some places they are entirely unreliable. I've been abandoned (after calling a cab) in Ann Arbor, and there's no information that that's what happened-- I kept calling the company and they kept saying "soon" as my flight got closer and closer..

Or in other places there is a monopoly-- e.g. Detroit airport, or the many cities with corrupt medallion systems. It wasn't drivers who owned those medallions, it was people exploiting the drivers.

I understand being anti-uber, but that sure as hell doesn't make me pro taxi.
posted by nat at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2016 [28 favorites]


I'm curious, what is the problem with taxis?

Judging from a lot of comments I've seen in Canadian newspapers it's also that the drivers often speak a strange, guttural language.
posted by Flashman at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2016


Cars are so fucking expensive.

Most people spend far more on their cars than they need to strictly for transportation alone. An older car that you don't drive much is pretty cheap, probably ~$1k/year unless you get nailed for parking (most people don't). What is that, one cab ride a week?
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2016


For me, cabs where I live are unreliable in terms of cost and time. I exclusively use Uber now mostly due to being able to walk to my destination several miles away before the Yellow Cab would even arrive to get me.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


In many places the taxi service is bad. You don't know when (or if) your taxi is going to arrive, or if they know where they're going, or if the meter and/or credit card reader is going to be mysteriously 'broken', or how much it's going to cost.
posted by Pyry at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


I understand being anti-uber, but that sure as hell doesn't make me pro taxi.

I think it means that the taxi industry is severely under-regulated, probably due to local and state corruption.
posted by Beholder at 11:03 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Most people spend far more on their cars than they need to strictly for transportation alone. An older car that you don't drive much is pretty cheap, probably ~$1k/year unless you get nailed for parking (most people don't). What is that, one cab ride a week?

I would pay more than $1K/year just on insurance, before gas, payments, and repairs, if I had a car.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:03 AM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm curious, what is the problem with taxis?

In Chicago, unless you're in a high-traffic area (the Loop or a bar/entertainment heavy district), cabs can take forever to pick you up. Sometimes the waits are 30-45 minutes. Ubers/Lyfts usually show up in 5 minutes or less. Also, if you opt for the ride-sharing option on Uber, you can see your fare before you even agree to flag the ride. The fares are overall much cheaper than traditional cabs.

Also, traditional cabs in Chicago tend to be super evasive about accepting credit cards, even though they're legally obligated to do so.

I feel for cabbies that have paid through the teeth for their medallions, I really do, and I'll use them for short rides downtown. But the Uber/Lyft cars are cheaper and infinitely more convenient in most situations.
posted by macrowave at 11:04 AM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


what is the problem with taxis?

Yes, nat mostly has it - it's the combination of reliability and accessibility. I can call an uber from the grocery store and be told that it will arrive in 4 minutes - and it will. I would never trust a taxi service to get me home from the grocery store before my ice cream melts; my experience of taxis is that you call one number, wait fifteen minutes for someone to pick up; they tell you they don't have any cabs available at the moment, so you call a second number, they pick up right away, tell you they'll have someone over in twenty minutes, and then the car never shows up. Not all the time, obviously, but enough that I wouldn't want to build my life around assuming they'll be available when I want them.

Additionally, part of my point was that (as the article points out) a lower cost does bring new customers into the market: if I was going to regularly pay $25 to get home from the grocery store, I'd probably start putting that money towards my own car, but the fact that it's $10 means I spend that money on Uber.

Most people spend far more on their cars than they need to strictly for transportation alone. An older car that you don't drive much is pretty cheap, probably ~$1k/year unless you get nailed for parking (most people don't). What is that, one cab ride a week?

I'm confused by this math, although I'd like to believe in it. In Michigan, average annual car insurance alone is over $2,500, and my rates would skew high because I don't have much of a driving history. I would have to pay for parking, and I'd also have to, you know, buy a car, which could average out to a thousand bucks a year after a while, I suppose, except that's assuming I live in Ann Arbor for more than a few years, which I don't plan to.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh, also, the Uber app doesn't tell the driver where you destination is until you get into the cab so there's none of that "I'm not going to Brooklyn" bullshit.
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think it means that the taxi industry is severely under-regulated, probably due to local and state corruption.

Yes, at least, that's what the above comments say to me regarding taxis. I generally don't take cabs (but my experiences have always been positive) and have never used Uber but it sounds like especially in larger centres there are some seriously issues cab companies need to address.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:09 AM on May 2, 2016


I can see there are problems with cabs in some places, but what I hate is how these big boys from California have come in waving all this money around, mesmerizing our local politicians with this 21st century sharing economy crap who are then like, 'oh by the way, taxi industry and all those immigrant drivers for whom driving a taxi has been the only way you can earn a decent living, turns out all those regulations and licensing hoops we've been making you jump through, all the expense of insurance... well turns out all that wasn't actually necessary after all.'
posted by Flashman at 11:09 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would pay more than $1K/year just on insurance, before gas, payments, and repairs, if I had a car.

I suppose that depends on you driving history and demographics. However, those will also raise the price of non-car ownership because you'll also get nailed for rentals.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:11 AM on May 2, 2016


In Manhattan at least, I prefer a taxi because the drivers generally know where to go, which lanes to avoid, and how to get around delivery vehicles and other hazards. Uber in NYC can be someone who knows the streets, or someone in town for the day to make money who really doesn't know where to go or how to drive.

Everywhere else, I hold my nose and use Uber because it is a far superior experience to almost any local taxi in pretty much every way.
posted by cell divide at 11:12 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


turns out all those regulations and licensing hoops we've been making you jump through, all the expense of insurance... well turns out all that wasn't actually necessary after all

But they should be necessary. I don't care what you call it, taxis, uber, ride sharing, whatever, but if you are selling your services as a driver, the bare minimum ought to be a criminal background check, clean driving record, driver's safety training, random drug testing, eye examination, and possibly even blood pressure screenings.
posted by Beholder at 11:23 AM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Transportation on demand is life changing just so fucking convenient. and convenience is the best way for everyone, amirite? ok, that is just too snarky. sorry.

the point is: convenience is a poor standard.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:25 AM on May 2, 2016


"and all those immigrant drivers for whom driving a taxi has been the only way you can earn a decent living"

So your assertion is that cabbies earn a decent living? Have you had cabbie friends or talked to cabbies about the economics of their jobs?
posted by el io at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


pretentious illiterate: “I'm confused by this math, although I'd like to believe in it. In Michigan, average annual car insurance alone is over $2,500, and my rates would skew high because I don't have much of a driving history. I would have to pay for parking, and I'd also have to, you know, buy a car, which could average out to a thousand bucks a year after a while, I suppose, except that's assuming I live in Ann Arbor for more than a few years, which I don't plan to.”

This isn't an argument in favor of Uber or other car services. It's an argument in favor of car-share programs, which alleviate all the problems you're talking about with none of the negatives of Uber – i.e. ethical concerns about making sure the driver is well-treated.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm curious, what is the problem with taxis? Is it the cost? Or is it more about convenience - that they don't have an app and require you to call in for a cab? Not trying to troll, mostly trying to understand why someone would prefer Uber over a cab.

A few things:

1) In many markets, taxis have been either a monopoly or an oligopoly for decades. Further - in many markets, the taxi rates are regulated. Thus - with limited income potential and nobody to compete with, there has been next to no reason to actually ameliorate the service or keep pace with the times.

It's not just apps - an example in the town I grew up in, - at 2am after the bars, people wait in the freezing cold for over an hour calling the cab companies repeatedly - getting busy signals over and over again. The reason? The two cab companies have a captive market, and hiring another person to answer calls and/or investing in a queuing system hasn't been worth it. So people get absolutely crap service and with two old-school companies eschewing technology (they first got debit in-car in 2011, I believe), there's no market to push them to get better.

2) When I traveled in Paris, I didn't get lost on my way from the plane to a conference I needed to get to relatively quickly. There were no bandit cabs, no having to learn a new public transit system for the first time in my second language, and no worries about currency or exchange after a red-eye flight. I fired up the same app I use at home and it used the same credit card as it always does.

3) Cabbies have done themselves no favors. Once I got a phone with GPS, I realized how common it was to be taken "the long way" if you are a tourist in some place in order to run the fare up.

Taxi associations are often huge contributors to city council elections and thus things like hard limits on the number of plates (to increase the sale value to one another) creates a small number of immensely wealthy people who buy plates and then lease them out to immigrants, taking the profit with them.

Taxi protests have, in some jurisdictions, been violent and incredibly disruptive - often threatening to fuck everybody's shit up at Christmas, or around major events, in order to get their way in negotiations.
posted by scrittore at 11:41 AM on May 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


j_curiouser: yes, it is too snarky. But it's also wrong. I mean, for Christ's sake, what screams "convenience at any cost" more than having your own car sitting idle in the driveway for 23 hours a day so that you can jump in it and drive wherever you want, whenever you want? Uber offers some of the convenience of owning your own car at a much, much lower price point. Someone who owns a car snarking at someone who uses uber instead doesn't have much of a case, as far as I can tell.

koeselitz: Yes, I know. And I paid yearly fees to Zipcar for two years, despite using the service maybe five times total, because I really, really wanted this to work for me, and in Cambridge - which has a way lower rate of car ownership - it did. Unfortunately, in Ann Arbor, all the cars seem to be located in the same narrow cluster of spots downtown that makes them basically useless to me.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


3) Cabbies have done themselves no favors. Once I got a phone with GPS, I realized how common it was to be taken "the long way" if you are a tourist in some place in order to run the fare up.


This is one of many things that Uber does really well. If you think your driver has taken the wrong route or that there were better routes available, you can easily dispute the fare via the app and customer service will quickly get back to you. I've had to do this 1-2 times and I've had responses and refunds within 24 hours.

Also, if you rate a ride less than three stars, customer service will be in contact with you to find out what went wrong and what they can do to help, including refunds, additional training, and firing the driver.
posted by Flamingo at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


The problem with taxis:
- have to call and deal with a person (seemingly always rude)
- or have to track one down and physically hail it
- supply is limited
- they'd never come to one train station due to a perception of likely theft / nonpayment (i.e., racism)
- have to talk about your destination (minor point, not a big deal)
- the big point to me: you pay via your bank account automatically. No "do you take credit cards?" (Outside of NYC, this is an actual bone of contention. Theoretically, I guess they have to, but I've had LA cab drivers bellyache and a Cleveland cab driver instead insist we stop by an ATM.) No waiting for change or receipts. No waiting while they called the credit card in to dispatch (another Cleveland story) to make sure it was good. It just comes straight out of your bank account or onto your credit card.
posted by salvia at 11:58 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have never used Uber; it recently arrived in my small college city, but the local public transport and car-share services make it infinitely less appealing than if, say, I lived in Toronto or somewhere huge. There are three taxi companies and while they're just fine, they're also expensive for a town this size.
posted by Kitteh at 11:59 AM on May 2, 2016


This thread seems to be devolving into the usual Metafilter uber-argument. "Taxis suck more than Uber." "No, Uber sucks more than taxis." Does anyone have anything interesting to say about the actual article?

For instance, I found this bit interesting:

In three years, Uber drivers in New York have seen their idle time on the platform almost halve: from 36 minutes per hour, to 20. As that figure shrinks further, and cars and drivers are used more and more intensively – and drivers are therefore earning almost constantly – Uber will be able to cut fares lower than you thought they could possibly go. The endgame that Uber envisages is what it calls the Perpetual Trip: drivers on a never-ending chain of pick-ups and drop-offs.

Does this concept represent some kind of future of urban transportation, and is it possible to implement with enough regulation to avoid sacrificing the labour rights of the *employees*? Is this a more realistic goal than improved public transportation or car sharing?
posted by Dr. Send at 12:09 PM on May 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


is it possible to implement with enough regulation to avoid sacrificing the labour rights of the *employees*?
Possible, sure, but Uber has a specific interest in not doing this. (Which is why the discussion of "uber has problem X" versus "taxi companies have problem Y" is relevant to the article.)
posted by introp at 12:16 PM on May 2, 2016


Kitteh, I live in a small college town without Uber service. We used to have several taxi companies, but they've all merged into this one monopoly that charges me $17.50 to the airport, 3 miles and under 10 minutes away. I used Uber for the first time in LA recently, as a curiosity - what's it all about? - and I confess that if they came to my town, I'd probably use them, and use much more of them than the local cabs.

(I walk to work; we own a minivan.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Does this concept represent some kind of future of urban transportation, and is it possible to implement with enough regulation to avoid sacrificing the labour rights of the *employees*? Is this a more realistic goal than improved public transportation or car sharing?

Well, not to start into another topic that there have been several identical and fruitless fights about around here, but Uber's long-term goal is to not have drivers at all but instead to operate a fleet of self-driving cars that would stand a much better chance of achieving the Perpetual Trip. They've got a warehouse somewhere in Pittsburgh where they're testing out prototypes. I don't exactly have a lot of faith in their ability to follow through on the R&D of a world-changing technology that would need to be able to withstand immense scrutiny and an extremely complicated regulatory environment from day 1, but that's what they're going for. I think something like that, whether operated by Uber, Google, or someone else, probably is the future of urban transportation, although whether that future comes in 2020 or 2120 is still up for debate.
posted by Copronymus at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kitteh, I live in a small college town without Uber service. We used to have several taxi companies, but they've all merged into this one monopoly that charges me $17.50 to the airport, 3 miles and under 10 minutes away. I used Uber for the first time in LA recently, as a curiosity - what's it all about? - and I confess that if they came to my town, I'd probably use them, and use much more of them than the local cabs.

Oh, I wasn't pooh-poohing Uber. I have just never been in a position where they are a viable alternative for me (I don't own a car).
posted by Kitteh at 12:43 PM on May 2, 2016


I'm confused by this math, although I'd like to believe in it. In Michigan, average annual car insurance alone is over $2,500

I was about to go all "there's no way that's possibly true" on you but decided to make absolutely sure so as not to look like an idiot... and yes, average annual cost of car insurance in Michigan is $2700.

To be clear, though, that's massively higher than average. In fact there are only two states in the country over $2000 per year and the national average is $1325. Only 9 states are over $1600 per year. So Michigan isn't just an outlier, it's not even in the same ballpark.

What the hell is wrong with Michigan?
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with Michigan?
Here are some answers. The short version seems to be a poorly executed mandatory insurance law.
posted by cell divide at 1:10 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Huh. I guess I can cross "move to Michigan" off my bucket list. Oh wait, it wasn't there.
posted by Justinian at 1:11 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it means that the taxi industry is severely under-regulated, probably due to local and state corruption.

Or a case of regulatory capture in many places.

So your assertion is that cabbies earn a decent living? Have you had cabbie friends or talked to cabbies about the economics of their jobs?

Yeah it sure isn't a great living (I don't know any traditional cab drivers though I do know people who have driven for UberX). Annual wage on that document is an estimate from hourly * 2080 - I think a lot of cab drivers do make more overall than it looks like there but by working a huge number of hours. From what I've seen hourly net for Uber probably isn't too much worse but they definitely want you (as a prospective driver) to think it's a lot more than it usually is.
posted by atoxyl at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My takeaway was that the perpetual trip was a good thing for drivers because it means they are more likely to be driving while they are in service (instead of just waiting around to be called/hailed). Even if the per trip fee goes down, if you have more trips then it comes to the same thing.

So in the present scenario, you make $16/hour and half the time is spent waiting to be called/hailed, which isn't really time off because you're still driving somewhere just not getting money for it. With the perpetual trip you'd still make the same $16/hour but do more paying trips with the savings being passed to the passengers. I guess this would encourage passengers to take more trips which would be beneficial for the drivers.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Most people spend far more on their cars than they need to strictly for transportation alone. An older car that you don't drive much is pretty cheap, probably ~$1k/year unless you get nailed for parking (most people don't). What is that, one cab ride a week?

Lmao.

Ok so i have literally never owned a car that cost more than $1500. Two out of the three cars i've owned cost less than $500. And don't get me wrong, these aren't junkers. Just always cosmetically imperfect cars that are mechanically sound.

First of all, insurance basically costs $1000 a year. Yea, i managed to shave this on my current go-around with car ownership via metromile, but it's still close to that on it's own for what's honestly probably less insurance than i should really carry, plus the ~$2 a month roadside assistance fee i decided was worth it when i looked in to the exact specifics of what you got.

Second, i don't drive much. I do not commute via car and mostly have it for times i need to make a trip that would be annoying or awkward via cab or transit(IE: lots of stops in different locations before the final destination to run errands/pick up items/pick up and drop off people), and for going out of town on ~100 mile trips to visit friends or hike or whatever. There's totally weeks where i put 10 or 20 miles on the car total.

Despite this, and it getting good gas mileage, i'm still paying averaged out something like $60-80 a month on gas.

And then you add in maintenance, even if you're just talking oil changes and tires/wiper blades/lightbulbs/a battery every few years and occasionally having to pay for lot or street parking and... yea. There's NO WAY you're at $1000 a year.

I feel like i'm genuinely doing this as cheaply as possible. I get my hands dirty and do a lot of the smaller maintenance stuff myself, seek out the cheapest insurance, and know where the cheapest gas stations are and make a point of stopping at them if my trip goes nearby.

This also completely discounts more major shop maintenance. Even something like brake pads and a rotor job can be $500+. And CV boot type stuff, and...

A $1000 year can only exist in a vacuum where the years in which $1000 is one stack of repairs aren't tied to it.

Can you own a car for $2000 a year? Yea, i believe that. But $1000 is horribly unrealistic.


Another thing is that i did live a car-light lifestyle in between owning these cars, and before i owned my first car. I didn't get my license until i was in my 20s, and when i did i just borrowed my parents car when i could(which wasn't often) or drove stuff like car2gos. I mostly took the bus and uber/lyft, or cabs before those existed.

It was objectively cheaper. It's not even just the actual hard cost, it's that it forces you to think more rigorously about whether trips for small things or worth it or if they should just be consolidated in to one big end of the week trip. I'll drive to the one store i know has something instead of looking at every store in the neighborhood on foot, or waiting for the big store trip at the end of the month. That kind of shit adds up to.

Can you avoid those "stupid" trips? Yea, but it's really hard. And even when i'd take a lot of uber/lyfts in a month and rent a car2go a bunch of times i'd realize i had spent less on that than the bare cost of insurance and gas to drive my car around.

I honestly think you'd have to take more than maybe $120 of uber/lyfts a month-ish for it to be a losing proposition versus owning a car. Maybe even $150. And you also get the benefit of not having to park or go get the car(assuming you live in a place without onsite parking, as i do). You have to remember, the cheapest insurance some people even with a good driving record can get is like $90.

It's also worth noting my average uber/lyft trip is about $10, even if it's across town. My average car2go trip was $6-10, possibly with another trip about that price after i had parked and done my business and gotten back in. That gives you about 12 trips a month at $120, maybe even a couple bonus ones. I also regularly took advantage of the lyft/uber promotional deals along the lines of "half off rides this week/weeekend!" which consistently occurred about once a month.

I'll also note that living in the city, even watching stuff like a hawk, i get a couple expensive parking tickets a year on every car i've ever owned. Most recently they put up a fucking sign next to my car after i already parked which i'm struggling to prove right now. Shit happens if you're living in a large city.

But the only way owning a car costs $1000ish a year is if you're a college kid whose parents bought the car, and are paying for the insurance and maintenance.
posted by emptythought at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Uber drivers in NYC just formed a 'solidarity organization', since independent contractors can't unionize. Incredibly, they've named it Amalgamated Local Livery Employees in Solidarity.

Uber ALLES.
posted by zamboni at 2:04 PM on May 2, 2016 [25 favorites]


Can you own a car for $2000 a year? Yea, i believe that. But $1000 is horribly unrealistic.

I dunno, I spend about that on my car in a year. I have pay-per-mile insurance which runs me around 40 bucks a month. I fill up maybe once every 2 months. I have to buy a parking permit to park on the street, which costs $60 for a year.

It's doable.
posted by Automocar at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2016


As Copronymus noted above, soon taxi and Uber/Lyft drivers won't be needed. My guess is that Uber/Lyft won't want to own and maintain tens of thousands of cars. Instead, they will work with a new class of people: operators of fleets of self-driving cars. Many current drivers will become fleet operators, but hardly all.

It will be interesting to see if scale is important and only the big fleet operators will do well. Or, it could be that the most cost-effective way is to run a small fleet that you can service yourself. Some argue that large corporations mostly exist because they reduce transaction costs. But some of those costs are lowered by Uber/Lyft's apps and by not having to employ drivers. Interesting times.
posted by Triplanetary at 3:16 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Transportation on demand is life changing just so fucking convenient. and convenience is the best way for everyone, amirite? ok, that is just too snarky. sorry.

the point is: convenience is a poor standard.


As someone who can't drive (and can't learn to drive... reasons...) having transportation that actually shows up has been, I assure you, actually life changing. Being able to actually go places and not have to be constantly worrying "will I be able to get home at all?" is absolutely life changing. This is not something which taxis have ever provided, at least not in this town nor almost any town of any size. I have literally gone from being that person who can't leave the house without begging for a ride, to someone who can answer "yes, I can go and do the thing".

Of all of my friends who take ubers, only about 10% of them take it for the price. For the rest, uber would be considered a bargain at twice the price. Interestingly, when uber first came to town, they were actually more expensive than Taxis by about 20% (mostly because they used hire cars - the uber black service). It was still wildly popular. Obviously it's become more popular at a lower cost, but I'm not convinced that it's the only major driving factor.

The taxi service is a corrupt, dirty, dangerous blight on this city, and almost everyone in my circle will be glad to be rid of them, Regulation is important, but it needs to be actually useful regulation, rather than the pure rent seeking that taxi regulation has become.
posted by jaymzjulian at 3:28 PM on May 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


There's a great opportunity here. Uber has some great ideas and some bad ones, but the bad ones aren't inherent. Uber doesn't have to be shitty to their driver "contractors", they don't have to weasel their way out of paying taxes, they could easily adapt to accessibility regulations. They just do bad things because they can get away with it.

So far, it seems like city governments are either cheerleading for Uber, or trying to ban them completely (or force them to buy medallions, which is equivalent). I'd love to see a bunch of cities get together and set up a common set of reasonable regulations, instead. It would force Uber to either behave, or cede a giant chunk of the market to its competitors.
posted by vasi at 3:48 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I still stick to the point that we wouldn't have to choose between Uber vs. taxis if public mass transit were much better funded. Transportation should be a universal service, free or subsidized. The focus shouldn't be making a profit, but maximizing ridership.
posted by FJT at 4:09 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Many many good points raised above, on various sides. I wanted to add my first experience with Uber, which was a series of flyers Uber handed out in my NYC neighborhood and political mailings telling me to vote against my local representative, he was a bad guy who hates small business, because he'd voted some way Uber didn't like. We're your neighbors, said Uber.

My local representative is a great guy, a former schoolteacher who does right by the neighborhood and the small business owners in it.

My first thought was go the hell back to San Francisco, you evil carpetbagging corporate shills, you are *not* my neighbors. I've never gotten over the bad taste that left in my mouth. When I finally knuckled and signed up for a car app (when out of town, natch -- the MTA routinely outperforms cars, even when it's broken), it was Lyft.
posted by gusandrews at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Even in a place with robust mass transit there is still a place for taxis. Going the last bit from the stop/station to your destination, carrying fragile/bulky items, people travelling at really late hours (yes you could have the whole transit system running at 4am but its probably not the best use of resources).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:20 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having lived in SF pre-Uber, I can't help but think that maybe Uber would have never existed at all if SF cabs weren't so abysmally shitty.

Nothing like walking out of Mighty at 3am with no cabs or buses in sight. You call the cab company, and on the rare occasion the cab gods deigned to take your call, your chances of them actually showing up were about the same as having one randomly drive by. Which is to say, slim to none.

I've got no love for Uber as a company, but there's no question in my mind why they came into existence.
posted by panama joe at 9:07 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah. I only wish that there were a little less cognitive dissonance.

Yes, the cab industry is largely awful. No, that's not an excuse for Uber's behavior.

Uber is unlikely to be the future of transportation, although it may provide a glimpse I to it. Carsharing provides most of the benefits of uber, without the downsides or labor exploitation. Car2Go is a fantastic service, and I'm not sure how I'd get by without it if I left DC.

Similarly, it's impractical to commute via Uber. Even private cars are starting to become problematic for rush-hour. There's still a lot of room for better urban planning, transit, cycling, and ridesharing. The future absolutely needs to be car-lite, but Uber isn't going to get us there.
posted by schmod at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Uber drivers in NYC just formed a 'solidarity organization', since independent contractors can't unionize. Incredibly, they've named it Amalgamated Local Livery Employees in Solidarity.

Uber ALLES.


Starting a California chapter would be the logical next step.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


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