It's 1:45 AM and, thanks to Boston liquor laws, your favorite bar is shutting down for the night. You round up your friends, take your last swig of beer and head out the door to grab a cab... along with the rest of the bar's 150 patrons.
So there you are. In your heels and short dress. Trying to hail a cab, along with the rest of the world. It doesn't matter if you're on Boylston, at the waterfront or, god forbid, down near Government Center or Park Street. You will stand on the street corner and watch cab after cab pass you by before you finally get in one, at that point, freezing cold and beyond annoyed.
I know I can't possibly be the only one who hates this Boston 2 AM routine, especially during the 8 cold, rain-dominated months of the year. So when I discovered Uber, an as-you-need-it car service available at the tap of your smart phone, I was thrilled.
Uber was launched just over two years ago in San Francisco, and is available in almost a dozen major cities across the US, including Seattle, New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C. The company came to Boston in October of 2011, and has been growing since.
The concept is smart, sleek, and simple. Download the app, input your name, email address, cell number and credit card number. There is no membership fee, no deposit and no money down -- they only charge your card once you get into an Uber car and confirm your fare at the end of the ride.
I spoke with Nick Matthews, Community Manager for Uber's Boston division, who told me that while many cities have cab issues, Boston is among the worst.
"Uber is meant to optimize that issue," he explained. He also filled me in on an interesting fact: according to Matthews, there are four times the number of black cars in Boston than there are cabs, but those cars aren't legally permitted to stop unless they have a predetermined reservation. So when you see all those black cars and they refuse to let you in, that's why. Or, if they pick you up, be cautioned it's illegal.
Instead of employing Uber-specific drivers, the company contracts out to drivers in the city who are reliable and who have been referred to the company. They keep strong relationships with those drivers, who then "sign on" to the system at certain hours to become available for pick up.
Ubers do run at a slightly higher price point than cabs -- according to Nick, the standard rate is between 1.4 and 1.6 times what a cab would cost. That cost, however, includes your tips, and drivers are told specifically to refuse cash tips, as their tip is included in your fare.
To me, what's so appealing about Uber is the no hassle. You don't need to fight with the cabbie about your payment, he wont yell at you for using your card, and he won't smell, or blast terrible music. Stereotypes, yes, but have you ever been in a cab without one of those issues?
I also love the Uber app in on my iPhone: you literally zoom in in a google map to set your exact pick up location so you don't even need to input an address if you don't have it. The map shows clip art-like images of black cars and where in the city they're located, giving you an accurate time estimate of how long the next driver will take to reach you. Often, it's no more than 5 or 10 minutes away.
Of course, Uber isn't flawless, and it is slightly more expensive than a cab, but for the safety and reliability, I'm willing to cough up an extra few bucks. I have had instances, like several weekends back, when I was at Fenway and was told that the next Uber was 25 minutes away, and I was able to hail a cab before my driver got to me. In that case, I simply cancelled my request.
Have you used Uber? What did you think? Would you consider signing up? Comment!
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About the authorRachel Kossman is a California girl and New England transplant who graduated from Northeastern University in 2011. She has a penchant for discovering new restaurants and bars, devouring Mexican food, More »
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