No Thanks Uber, I’ll Take a Taxi

There has been a lot of news about Lyft and Uber trying to persuade drivers to come back and become a ride-share driver. It wasn’t until my trip last week to San Diego that I saw first hand how awful their (Uber and Lyft) service is. In fact, this may make taxis competitive again.

Uber/Lyft is Expensive

Business articles have reported that the cost of using Uber/Lyft has increased more than 50% from prices in January 2020 (before the pandemic). I have used ride sharing a lot over the years. I prefer Lyft because my experience was that Uber drivers spend a lot of time complaining about how much Uber takes of the fare. But this was long ago. Until this last trip, I hadn’t used Uber in years.

If you are like me, one of the most attractive qualities of ride share is the cost. We don’t mind waiting 10 minutes for a car in order to save 50% off taxi rates. But that is no longer. Because I didn’t even think of taking a taxi in San Diego until my last ride, I significantly overpaid. There simply aren’t many ride share cars out there. Demand is much greater than supply. That may not change until people start using taxis more (which I did in this last trip).

New Rider Constraints Make it Worse

Before the pandemic, you could have four riders in a car – three in the back, one in the front. Not anymore. You can only have three people in a regular size car as we are all sent to the backseat. Perhaps the powers that be think COVID doesn’t know it can move from the back seat to the front seat – just like smoke didn’t leave the smoking section of restaurants. Apparently COVID respects the invisible divide between the backseat and front seat, but not when we sit in the front seat.

Whatever the reason, this is an awful change. For a family of four, we now need to seek out an XL car. There are many fewer XL cars than regular cars. Several times we were quoted waits of 20 minutes and a picture of a car across town that could come get us. Meanwhile there are at least five regular-size cars that could get us within minutes. This causes a longer wait for riders and it allows Uber/Lyft to raise prices and makes the system less efficient. Maybe executives don’t know this, but that is not what people want.

While ride share executives entice more drivers to come back, the first thing they should do is remove the 3 person maximum when there are four seat belts available. Here is a secret – taxis allow people to use all seatbelts! This makes them not just a viable option, but they may become a preferred option.

Why I Chose a Taxi

It was Sunday morning and we needed to travel 4 miles to get to the airport. I hadn’t yet thought to take a taxi; my mindset had always been ride share. And frankly the technology is superior. For a ride at 9am, I was quoted $38 to go to the airport and a wait of 20 minutes for a XL car required for my family of four. Around that time a taxi came to the hotel and dropped someone off. We asked if he could take us to the airport and he was happy to do it. Total cost? Meter was $16 and I gave him a $20 bill. The taxi was roughly half as much as Uber/Lyft.

Thankfully we had a friend picking us up at the Minneapolis airport to take us home. But while we waited for him, I ran the Lyft app to see how much it would cost to take ride share home. Check it out!

It would be $41 for a normal car, but $80 for us because we needed an XL. In this case, because of the passenger capacity constraint we would have had to pay $80…which we wouldn’t have. We would have taken a cab for about $60.

The Big Takeaway

Ride share technology is awesome! I will still use it. But I won’t do it blindly going forward. I will get a quote and actually process the quote. In the past, ride share has always been cheaper than taxis and many of us took that tradeoff with the need to wait. Taxis, especially from an airport, are more convenient because you don’t have to go to some special area and wait for your driver. And now taxis may also offer a lower rate.

Bottom line is that it may be worthwhile to choose a taxi over ride share. Especially if you have a family of four.


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