Uber Hits DC: How Does it Compare to Taxi Magic?
I’ve been using an iPhone app called Taxi Magic for several months now. It’s been the only way I order cabs, a simple and seamless experience. You launch the app — it pulls a directory of local cab companies for you to choose from, determines your location, confirms you’re ready for pick up, asks where you want to go, and confirms which credit card (or cash) you’d like to use. As you wait for your cab to arrive you receive push notifications/alerts as a car is dispatched and can follow its exact location on a map. At the end of your ride you can pay cash, use a physical card to swipe on their machine, or pay through the app choosing a 15/20% tip or type in the exact amount.
Then Uber came along. On November 14th Uber officially launched in DC with approximately 60-80 cars covering the District, Arlington and some of Alexandria in Virginia, and as far as Bethesda in Maryland. With an app similar to Taxi Magic they’re seeking to offer something far more than convenience — luxury at your fingertips without burning a hole in your wallet.
I’ve tried Uber twice now, once from my home and a second ride from a restaurant in DC. Here’s my view on how they differ from user experience to cost and convenience:
Both — Allow you to order a car, locates you, maps the car en route.
Taxi Magic — Sends push notifications saving me any possible texting fees; allows me to enter my destination (more helpful to the dispatcher); tip is at my discretion.
Uber — Sends text notifications; shows me an advance picture of my driver with his user-generated star rating; offers an option to rate the driver and give feedback at the end of the ride; offers the driver an ability to rate the passenger – yes, the passenger! Uber also maintains all your trip details in an account you can access on their website.
Neither offer the option to ask for a larger car to accommodate more than 4 passengers.
Taxi Magic — You choose the cab company you want and that’s exactly what you receive – a cab and a cab driver. That experience can be one of many, as we all know too well. I’ll leave it at that.
Uber DC — All drivers are contractors for Uber and must maintain a well polished black Town Car, SUV, or Mercedes. As to be expected from car service as opposed to a taxi, your driver will open the door and greet you professionally and politely. My first ride was a Suburban and the second a Mercedes. Neither driver initiated conversation but was pleasant when spoken to and a radio/music was never playing (nor was anyone on their cell phone!) Money never changes hands and price is never discussed. As soon as you arrive the app will tell you what was billed to your account (where your credit card is on file) and a receipt is instantly sent via email.
The District of Columbia has a complicated system which you can check out for yourself here. It starts with $3 for the first 1/6 of a mile and then $0.25 for each 1/6 of a mile or fraction thereof. So if I went 15 miles (which was my first trip) it would cost about $25 according to this chart. However, I’ve taken that trip before and it’s usually about $23 + tip.
Uber breaks it down to a $7 base fee + $3.25 per mile (when moving) + $0.75 per minute (when standing). The tip is built into this and not an additional cost. My first trip, 15 miles, was valued at $31 total.
So, basically it cost me $6 more to get from South Arlington to Chinatown. I replaced rude drivers and often foul-smelling cars with courteous, quite service in a sleek car.
If luxury costs $6 you can count me in.