Is It Rideshare, Ride-Hail or Something Else?

One of the things I’ve struggled with over the past year while covering this industry, is what to call it.  I’m a little biased, seeing as I run a blog for drivers called The Rideshare Guy, but I still stick by that term since I haven’t found anything else that is a better qualifier.  I could have used a more accurate depiction and called myself, ‘The Glorified Taxi App Guy’, but that just didn’t have the same cache.

I often read comments at the bottom of my articles or on Twitter that chastise people for referring to companies like Uber and Lyft as ‘rideshare companies’.  But when I ask them what we should call them instead, my request is often met with silence.  Rideshare probably isn’t the best term to describe what Uber and Lyft do, but there may not be anything better.

The Argument Against Rideshare?

The term rideshare is used most often to describe companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that connect drivers with passengers.  They aren’t true rideshare in the sense that people are actually sharing rides but it is a holdover from the term, sharing economy.

We still hear the term ‘sharing economy’ thrown around somewhat cavalierly these days, but most of the apps we know and love (Uber, Postmates, Instacart, etc) are anything but sharing.  They often involve a customer in need of a service and an app that can connect them with a person willing to provide that service.  Not much sharing going on there.

But true ridesharing is something you may have done inadvertently in the past in order to take the carpool lane or save some money.  There are companies like CoRide and Carma that are using tech solutions to enable true ridesharing but most people have never heard of those two.

Is It Really Ride-Hail?

In January, The AP Stylebook actually banned the term rideshare and asked reporters and the public to refer to companies like Uber and Lyft as ride-hail or ride-booking services from then on.  Maybe they weren’t aware of Uberpool at the time, but to me, ride-hail might be even more inaccurate than rideshare.

The reason why the word ‘hail’ doesn’t work is because that it is actually the one thing you still can’t do with Uber and Lyft.  The meaning of hail is ‘to call or yell out in order to catch the attention of.’  You may have heard it used in this manner: ‘to hail a cabdriver.’

But in fact, Uber and Lyft drivers actually aren’t allowed to accept street-hails and many have been severely prosecuted for doing so.  The only way passengers can book a ride with Uber is if it’s through the app, meaning taxis are the only ones allowed to accept street hails.

Americans might not know it either but hail is actually used much more commonly in Europe and there is already an app called Hailo that does – you guessed it – lets you electronically hail a ride from a taxi.  So while hail may be appropriate for describing taxis, it is most definitely not the term that should be used to describe Uber and Lyft.  If you’ve ever taken a ride, you know that the service Uber and Lyft provide is very different from the taxi experience.

Uberpool to the Rescue

UberPool may not be as big of a household name as UberX but it is on the same upward trajectory.  Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick has hinted that UberPool is the company’s future and early Uber investor Bill Gurley has basically told us the same thing.

UberPool works by finding two different passengers headed in the same direction and allows them to share a ride.  So two riders and two drivers turns into two riders and only one driver.  We know that most cars on the road are nowhere near full capacity and innovations like UberPool are meant to solve this problem.  But it’s not just people that you could soon be sharing a ride with.

Deliver Me That

The final nail in the coffin for the term ride-hailing is the emergence of popular delivery services like Postmates, Instacart and Washio.  These companies are delivering food, groceries and dry-cleaning respectively.  All are rising stars in the on demand economy and many Uber drivers (including myself) also deliver for Postmates or Washio and vice versa.

So calling someone like myself a ride-hail driver may not be a broad enough term considering that I am delivering people, food and even goods.  Today, a lot of these companies exist and operate independently, but we’re already starting to see companies like Sidecar partner up with Instacart to deliver groceries in Chicago and Uber experimenting with packages and food in LA.

The industry is clearly headed in the direction of efficiency and it’s only a matter of time before I have a bag of dry-cleaning in my trunk, a passenger in the back seat and a Chipotle burrito on the floor.  And at that point, I’ll no longer be a ride-hail or a rideshare driver, I’ll be something else.

 

About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!

An Exclusive Interview with The Rideshare Guy

If you ride or drive with Uber or Lyft it is likely you have heard of “The Rideshare Guy“, Harry Campbell. Harry has made a name for himself by providing the rideshare community, especially rideshare drivers, with tips and information on how to sign up and drive for Uber and/or Lyft. His knowledge of the rideshare industry is quite impressive and many rideshare riders and drivers consider his blog and podcast an information staple within the rideshare community. Check out our interview with the one and only “Rideshare Guy” to learn how he became a guru in the rideshare space.

 

Hi Harry! Thanks for sitting down with us.  What gave you the idea to start blogging as “The Rideshare Guy”?

When I first got started driving, I noticed that there were a lot of questions new drivers had.  I had a lot of the same questions so I took it upon myself to figure them out and then write about my experience as a driver.  Over time, my site came to focus more on a mix of information and I now cover topical content, information/policies, driving strategies and more.

 

Are you a celebrity in the rideshare world?  Has anyone (passenger or driver) recognized you while you were giving/taking rides?

Haha!  I wouldn’t say I’m a celebrity but when it comes to rideshare, there are a lot of people who know my name.  I’ve taken a couple hundred Uber/Lyft rides but only one driver has ever recognized me before I even got into the car.  I will admit, it was a good feeling though.

 

That is awesome! So we heard you were an aerospace engineer and now you are The Rideshare Guy full-time.  What was that decision like to completely change careers? Are there any similarities between aerospace and transportation industries?  

My wife was a bit surprised when we started discussing the transition but it’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.  There isn’t a whole lot of similarity between my old desk job and driving for Uber but I will say that one of the number one reasons people drive for Uber is because they don’t want to work in the stuffy, corporate environment.

There’s definitely something to be said about being able to work when and where you want.  It’s not for everybody but that flexibility is unmatched.

 

I guess we didn’t expect there to be too much similarity between your two careers! Now that you have been an active member of the rideshare community for some time, if you had to pick, which company would you say is your favorite as a driver?  What about as a rider?

I’m a big fan of Lyft as a driver and a passenger because I think they are a much more community oriented company.  That being said, it’s a bit of a catch 22 since Uber provides most of the rides for drivers.

 

Do you have any great stories from driving with Uber/Lyft?  Can you share with us your favorite one?

There are a lot of stories to choose from but one of my favorite rides to this day was a pick-up in Los Angeles of a very elderly gentleman.  His nephew had installed and setup the Uber app on his phone and it was his first ride ever but he managed to request a car and he got me.
He was pushing 80 yet very active and we had an awesome 45 minute ride where we talked all about his life, why he was out in LA and how Uber was already changing the way he could get around the city.

 

How wonderful that rideshares are able to help multiple generations of riders! Harry, you know our team at TFF thinks you are worth 6 Uber stars but what do your riders think? Do you agree with the Uber rating system?

On the surface, I think the ratings system is great but unfortunately it causes a lot of anxiety and tension amongst drivers and even passengers.  There isn’t a lot of feedback so drivers are often dinged for unknown reasons and many passengers rate 4 stars as a satisfactory experience.  But drivers actually have to maintain a 4.6 rating in order to stay active with Uber, so anything below 5 is failing.

 

If you could make one major reform to the rideshare industry, what would it be?

I’m biased in this matter, but I think the drivers are what make this industry and should be given more freedoms to operate independently.  As it stands now, companies like Uber really get the best of both worlds when it comes to saving on employment costs but also controlling many aspects about how drivers must perform their job.

 

How do you see the transportation industry evolving over the next 3 years?  5 years? Will taxi companies survive?

Taxi companies in the US will likely have a diminishing role but I don’t see them completely disappearing anytime soon.  If anything, Uber and Lyft have forced taxi companies to evolve their outdated polices and practices in order to compete.  I always say competition among rideshare companies is a good thing and it’s no different when you involve taxi companies.

 

TaxiFareFinder would like to thank Harry Campbell for his support and effort; we truly appreciate his willingness to complete this interview. Make sure to check out his blog, The Rideshare Guy!

Would Uber Be Better Without Surge Pricing?

Over the past couple years, the term ‘surge’ has taken on a whole new meaning.  If you’re not familiar with why it’s so famous, surge is a feature of the popular ridesharing app Uber, and it signifies increased pricing during times of high demand.

According to Uber’s website, “At times of high demand, the number of drivers we can connect you with becomes limited. As a result, prices increase to encourage more drivers to become available.”  On the surface, it sounds simple enough: when demand for rides outweighs available drivers, Uber raises prices to get more drivers on the road.

But as research has proven, surge actually turns out to be more of a re-distribution of drivers than anything else.  And veteran Uber drivers know that it’s a fool’s errand to chase the surge.

Christian Perea, an Uber driver who’s driven in three major cities, told me, “Wise drivers do not chase surge. They do their homework and patiently anticipate it. I only move towards surge areas if they are within five minutes driving distance or if I know that there is a high likelihood of consistent surge for a period of time.”

Would Uber Be Better Without Surge Pricing?

So When Does Surge Work?

Since surge pricing can be so dynamic, it doesn’t work all that well to get drivers off the couch (because it could easily disappear after just one ride).  But it does entice drivers to come out during the biggest events (like New Years or Lollapalooza) and during the busiest times (like the Saturday night closing bar rush when everyone wants to get home).

Driving the party hours (Friday and Saturday nights) is notorious for unruly passengers and drunken rides but there also tends to be a lot of surge.  Uber drivers work these hours because they anticipate increased demand and surge pricing.  I know that I wouldn’t drive a bunch of drunks around until 3 am if I could make the same amount at 2 pm on a Friday.

But while drivers tend to love surge, those same feelings are rarely shared by passengers.  New Year’s Eve is often a prime example of this with fares surging all the way up to 8.9x in certain parts of the country.  A quick sampling on Twitter would tell you that there were a lot of pissed off passengers too.

But Surge Is Great For Drivers Right?

You might think that an Uber driver who earns $89 for a fare that normally costs $10 would be happy about that.  But to them, it feels like Uber is going overboard.

Perea told me, “Surge isn’t as important to me.  I would rather see higher base fares and minimum fares. A driver should get $5 from each ride, seeing payouts for $3.20 on a minimum fare is outright insulting. Especially since they occur often in densely populated areas where it is most difficult and dangerous to drive.”

Perea is referring to the fact that on a $5 minimum fare, drivers only receive a $3.20 payout after Uber’s $1 safe rides fee and 20% commission.  It’s also interesting to note that fares have been cut up to 50% in certain cities like San Francisco over the past year so a 2.0x surge fare today is actually the same price as a regular ride was last year.

Should Surge Be Capped?

This week, NYC Mayor, Bill de Blasio, fresh off a swift defeat at the hands of Uber, proposed a cap on Uber’s surge pricing.  His last tussle with Uber involved limiting the number of Uber cars available in NYC but that was met by a flurry of lobbying from Uber and pressure from NYC residents.  Ultimately, De Blasio backed down on that initiative.

This new strategy to limit surge appears on the surface to target and win over consumers who have legitimate gripes about surge pricing.  But again, it could end up back-firing.  Without surge, there is really no incentive for drivers to be out on the road during times of peak demand which means rides aren’t even available for customers.

Uber has also made it very clear that they oppose any and all restrictions that would cap fares during times other than an emergency like an earthquake.

Should Uber Get Rid of Surge?

Uber is one of the most consumer-friendly companies out there today.  But the one area where they’ve refused to back down from, is surge, which tells me they must know something that we don’t.  According to a blog post by Bill Gurley in 2014, Uber recognized this problem early on.

Many of their drivers were logging off and going home at 1 am, just as all of the partygoers needed a ride home.  Asking drivers nicely to stay online didn’t work, but when they offered a 2-3x premium, low and behold, 2/3 of their unfilled requests were now being filled.  It turned out that drivers were responding to price elasticity.

Gurley also noted that “the next time you see a message indicating that Uber’s surge pricing is in effect: immediately try an alternative other than Uber. In other words, try to hail a cab, call a traditional black car service, find a rental car, or jump on a bus or subway. You will find that availability and reliability for all forms of transportation are under stress at that same precise moment in time. At these times, a fixed price taxi will be highly unavailable, and a fixed price subway will be remarkably over-crowded.”

And there in lies the reason why Uber shouldn’t ever get rid of surge and won’t.  Uber’s number one priority is being reliable and surge pricing makes it so that you can always get a ride when you need it.

There are a lot of passengers who complain about surge pricing but clearly they are still willing to pay it (otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the ride in the first place).  Uber has even gone to great lengths to make sure that riders understand and are aware of surge pricing.  Riders have to physically type in the surge multiplier when requesting a surge ride and they also now have the option of being notified once the surge goes down.

All of these changes have made surge more rider friendly and although it’s still an aggravating feature of Uber, it appears as if it’s an essential part of balancing supply and demand.

 

About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!

 

Why Senior Citizens Are Flocking to Uber

I still remember the first senior citizen I picked up as an Uber driver.  He was 85, and visiting Los Angeles from Chicago for two weeks.  The gentleman was a retired museum curator but he had graciously volunteered his time to work with a local museum on a new project.  He knew absolutely no one out here but before he left Chicago, his nephew had loaded the Uber app on to his smart phone so he could get around LA.

The ride request came in just south of Sunset Blvd. and as I scooted over there, I saw that my passenger was calling me.  This was kind of an odd occurrence but I answered the call and we arranged a pick-up location (normally I just drive to the pin and the passenger gets a notification that I’ve arrived).  But he was able to quickly describe where he was, and within minutes, he was sitting in my front seat as we headed towards Hollywood.

(Why Senior Citizens Are Flocking To Uber – Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

That ride was over a year ago and in the time since, there’s been a significant up tick in Uber rides given to senior citizen passengers.  One Uber driver I spoke with, named Martha Voorhees, told me that “40% of my clients are seniors.  They have smart phones, their grandchildren have loaded the app and they were taught how to use it.  Then from there, they teach others how to use it.  It’s quite viral in the senior group.”

It’s a well known fact that the United States is seeing a dramatic shift in the age demographic of the population.  Census data from 2012 found that 76 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 to 1964) were living in the US at the time.  And projections from the Census Bureau also suggest that 71.4 million people will be age 65 or older in 2029, or 20 percent of the US.

The social impact of this aging demographic has been discussed ad nauseam but seniors have already started taking the matter of transportation into their own hands.  Despite technical challenges and unfamiliarity, a lot of them really don’t have any other options and Uber is the perfect solution for them.

Uber Targets Seniors Too

While driver evidence of an uptick in rides given to seniors has been anecdotal, Uber has clearly recognized the opportunity that this demographic represents.  In addition to the sheer magnitude of potential customers, seniors also represent the ideal customer for Uber.  The casual rider might need 1-2 rides a week but a senior citizen who has no means of transportation might need a ride or two every single day.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, has talked before about bringing down the cost of Uber rides to the point where it’s cheaper than owning a car.  But for seniors who don’t even own a car, Uber doesn’t need to compete with the cost of ownership.  A few weeks ago, they released a promotional video that details how Uber is increasing mobility options for seniors.

Uber Isn’t The Only One Though

Uber’s sheer size may be great for investors but it is also a weakness when it comes to serving the demands of niche rideshare spaces.  Much like what we’ve seen with the companies who specialize in ‘Uber for Kids’, there are a lot of things that a small agile start-up can do better than Uber when trying to cater to a very specific audience.

Companies like Shuddle and Hop Skip Drive, that solely transport children, have recognized that parents value safety, the ability to pre-book rides and upfront pricing.  Uber has faced issues in multiple countries in regards to its background checks for drivers, and even something as simple as a phone number that customers can call is not currently part of Uber’s offering.

There is one start up currently in the ‘Uber for Seniors’ niche, called Lift Hero.  It operates in San Francisco and allows seniors to book a ride online or over the phone with a live operator.  It’s that personal touch that tech-centered companies like Uber will likely never provide.  Lift Hero’s founder, Jay Connolly, told me “I’m actually surprised Uber hasn’t pursued this market sooner but it is a bit of a danger for them.  It goes against their brand, Uber is all about maximizing automation and efficiency, no phone operators, no personal service, etc.”

Talking about how Lift Hero is different, Connolly said, “We’re fusing the old and the new by providing a phone interface for seniors to call in and book rides.  Our company adapts to the rider, not the other way around.  And we provide more than just transportation.  Our drivers provide accompaniment as well and we train them to understand what our passengers (seniors) are going through and how to help them.”

Although Lift Hero seems to be addressing a lot of the concerns that seniors may have, Uber is the name that everyone knows and turns to when they need a ride.  And many seniors that I’ve spoken to still have some apprehension when it comes to riding with Uber:

  • Safety – It’s no secret that Uber has received a lot of negative press over the past year.  Seniors cite background checks for drivers, legality and safety as their top concerns for riding with Uber.
  • Technological – For seniors who grew up in a time before cell phones even existed, the jump to using an app on a smart phone can be a big one.  But most seniors I’ve talked to have been able to get help from a younger, more tech savvy relative.  The ability to book rides via an operator could be a big benefit.
  • Generational – A lot of seniors don’t want to ask for help despite needing to get places all the time.  Statistics show that seniors who can’t drive actually miss 15% of their medical appointments compared to their peers who can.

Some Seniors Still Love Uber

Despite some angst, it’s rare to find a senior who has had a bad experience with Uber and it’s not just on the passenger side either.  Uber doesn’t collect data on the demographic of its riders but on my site, (that caters towards rideshare drivers), I’ve found that close to 40% of my audience is over the age of 50.

And as I explored in a recent interview with a baby boomer driver, rideshare driving really is the perfect compliment for seniors in need of some extra income.  These drivers value the flexible nature of working for Uber and they’re able to use the money they earn from driving to top off their social security checks or combine it with income from other part-time work.

Seniors Help Drivers Too

With one year of Uber experience under my belt, there’s a lot to like, but there’s also a lot that can make you pretty fed up with the experience and the company in general (there’s a reason why 50% of Uber drivers quit after just one year).  Ferrying drunk passengers around at 2 am for $4 ($2.40 after Uber’s cut) isn’t exactly life changing work.  Sure, you may be helping them avoid a DUI, but you’re not always thinking about that when they’re banging on your head rest or on the verge of vomiting in your car.

The graveyard shift can be a bit thankless as an Uber driver, but transporting seniors really does make you feel like you’re doing some good for the world.  Voorhees summed up her experience, “I once had a 93 yr old walk out in his walker, I helped him in and I was amazed…He said ‘Honey I can go anywhere I want…the road is endless with Uber…now let’s go to the bakery so I can have my goodies….’”

 

 

About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!

Are Taxis Gearing Up For A Comeback Against Uber?

We’ve all heard the saying that “it ain’t over til the fat lady sings”.  Growing up, I heard various renditions of this all the time since I participated in competitive sports.  And it’s even something I recited to my own players as a coach later on in life.  But there’s a good reason why this saying is so prevalent in athletics and business alike.  As anyone with experience can attest to, it’s hard to finish off a team, a company or even an entire industry.  Nobody likes to lose.

When Uber launched onto the scene with its flagship UberX product a couple years ago, its goal was to disrupt and take over an entire industry.  Taxis have long been an established part of the American transportation scene but they were also the subject of much ridicule and angst.  Looking back, it’s amazing that they made it this far without any real competition.

But now that competition is here, it’s here to stay.  Uber recently topped out at a $50 billion valuation and their current reach spans over 200 cities and almost 60 countries worldwide.  Lyft, their closest competitor is ‘only’ valued at $2 billion and has yet to even cross the border.

Most new on-demand start-ups find that the best way to describe themselves is “Uber for X”, and more than once, I’ve had Lyft passengers refer to me as ‘their Uber driver’, apparently unaware that they were in fact in a Lyft.  So I guess you could say that Uber has done a pretty good job at brand awareness.

But even though customers applaud the ability to hail a ride from their phone, pay with a credit card and rate their driver, taxis just won’t seem to go away.  Not yet at least.  Granted, Uber cars do fly a bit under the radar since they’re not painted bright yellow, but whether I’m in Boston, Los Angeles or San Francisco, it still seems like taxis are always hanging around.

They aren’t as common a sight as they once were, but by no means have they gone the way of the phone booth just yet.  Taxis still have strongholds at airports, are the only option in cities like Las Vegas and unlike Uber, they have always been allowed to accept street-hails.  So there are actually still some pretty big advantages to being a cab driver.

Taxis Fight Back (Sort Of)

Initially, the taxi industry’s response to Uber was a slew of ill-fated protests and complaints to government officials.  Most of these protests ended up serving the opposite purpose though as Uber’s downloads often increased by hundreds of percentage points on taxi protest days.

You can’t really blame taxis for trying though, their industry was under attack and they were fighting back. There’s no doubt that Uber does have an unfair advantage: they save money with less stringent on-boarding processes and ignore many of the licensing requirements that taxis have to go through.

I recently explored some of these requirements on my podcast with Woody McKee, the owner of a North Carolina-based taxi company and was shocked to find out that for example, every time he wants to onboard a new driver he has to make a trip to the DMV.  It’s regulations like this that make it nearly impossible for hard-working taxi owners to provide Uber-like services.

Uber Has Instituted Change Amongst Taxis

Whether or not you agree with Uber’s tactics of ‘innovate first, regulate later’, there is no denying that they have created a more competitive marketplace.  And in response to this competitive marketplace, we are starting to see changes in the taxi industry that would have once been unheard of.

Recently, Long Beach, CA CA -3.70% became one of the first cities in the nation to remove certain requirements and encourage taxi companies to operate more like rideshare companies.  Among the changes instituted: the ability to offer discounted fares, re-brand itself, increase its fleet size and offer free rides and promotional pricing.  All of which, appear on the surface at least, to benefit consumers.

Long Beach’s mayor summed it up best by saying, “We had a system that was very antiquated.  We’re trying to create a service that’s somewhere in between a traditional cab service and a traditional ride-sharing service.”  It’s a shame that it took a company like Uber to institute such radical change but customers deserve better.

Another recent innovation comes in the form of an app called Bandwagon that aims to match taxi passengers headed in the same direction.  I know there have been times in my life where I have been standing in a taxi line and was tempted to ask if anyone was headed to the same area as I was ($50 cab rides will do that to you).

I was always too shy to ask, but apps like Bandwagon will take care of that awkwardness for you.  They work by requiring passengers to enter route information and they will match two passengers headed to the same general area.  You can then use Bandwagon’s interface to split the bill and pay the cab driver.

It actually works a lot like another Uber innovation, UberPool (Lyft has an identical service called LyftLine).  But since taxis are the only legal option at most airports, it’s a pretty valuable service, for now. Five years ago, taxi companies working with an app that would actually reduce the number of available passengers would have been crazy but Uber has forced them to change.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

During Uber’s meteoric rise, taxi drivers were leaving in droves to come work for Uber and be their own boss.  It wasn’t even unheard of for career professionals to leave their corporate jobs and go become Uber drivers.  But a lot has changed over the past year.  Uber has slashed UberX fares 3 times in major markets and the current situation for drivers isn’t quite so rosy.

I’ve detailed just some of the gripes drivers have against Uber but many of the best Uber drivers are long gone by now.  By Uber’s own admission, driver retention is at just over 50% after one year.  They still have plenty of drivers but there’s no doubt among the driver community that lower rates have turned away some of the best drivers.  Many passengers have also echoed similar feelings.

Justin Gordon, a frequent Uber passenger from Santa Monica, CA told me, “There’s a noticeable difference between drivers today and one year ago.  Today, Uber drivers drive more erratically and seem like they’re just trying to get the job done.  It’s definitely only a minority of drivers, but still, this is why I stopped using taxis: because I prefer the more personal rideshare experience.”

These poor experiences with Uber are few and far between but from passengers and drivers I’ve talked to, they are happening with more frequency.  Uber has built up a lot of goodwill with its passengers so there’s some leeway for bad experiences but if this becomes a trend it could spell trouble.  Gordon did note however that despite these few bad experiences, he still exclusively takes Uber because of their current $5 UberPool fares.

It’s probably a stretch to say that Uber is reverting back to the taxi experience.  There are some aspects that they have changed for the better that can never be undone.  But if taxis can get their act together, there may be room for a comeback.  And it seems like they’re doing just that by changing regulations, allowing riders to carpool and it’s even been reported that some Uber drivers are converting their personal cars to taxis in NYC.

The Blueprint to Success

If taxi companies are going to make a comeback in the fight against Uber, they’ll need to do exactly what Uber did.  Uber was able to upend the entire taxi industry because they created a product that solved all of the most common complaints about taxis.  Their app allowed you to pay by credit card, track and rate your driver and their ‘fleet of cars’ was much nicer than taxi fleets since drivers were utilizing their personal vehicles.

Despite all of Uber’s success, there are still plenty of opportunities that a smart taxi industry will be looking to take advantage of.

  • Surge pricing: When passenger demand goes up and there aren’t enough drivers on the road, the cost of the ride will increase.  Passengers hate this.
  • Fixed pricing: In addition to surge, the price of the ride also isn’t calculated until the end of the trip.
  • Tipping: You can’t leave a tip on the app for drivers (tip is only included in the fare for UberTaxi rides) and it’s been a huge point of contention between Uber and its drivers.
  • Pre-booking: There is no option on Uber to pre-book rides (this is a common request on early AM airport rides for example).
  • Treatment of drivers: Most drivers would gladly drive for Lyft or other competitors but the demand just isn’t there to warrant it.

In Europe, taxi apps like Hailo have already solved all of these problems and more, and it shows.  On my recent trip to Dublin (where UberX uses licensed taxi drivers), Uber was just an afterthought on the transportation scene.  Most of the cab drivers I talked to said that all the locals use Hailo while Uber is reserved for American tourists and other Europeans.

Domestically, taxi apps like Gett Taxi in New York are already providing viable competition to Uber. Here’s their description from the Google GOOGL +1.56% Play Store:

Gett Taxi New York Google Play Store

You’ll notice that their description highlights items that have all been trouble areas for Uber in the past. This is brilliant marketing in my mind because passengers like Gordon who we heard from earlier aren’t going to pick a taxi app over Uber if they work exactly the same.  Taxi apps need to take a page out of Uber’s playbook and capitalize where Uber has exhibited weaknesses.

As a driver, I can tell you that competition, even from taxi companies, is a good thing.  Uber and Lyft have been in an epic race to the bottom over the past year and drivers have suffered the most.  But companies like Gett taxi are taking a different approach that could lead to long term success.  In March, Gett actually slashed prices even further making it cheaper than an Uber while still maintaining the same pay for their drivers.

So it appears that Gett is doing all the right things to attract passengers and even drivers.  At one time, it would have been crazy for Uber drivers to consider going back to driving a taxi but now I’m not so sure. I’ve even gone so far as soliciting taxi owners to hire me for a week to compare the two but so far no bites.  Ultimately, it appears that not only is there a little life left in the taxi industry, but there could be a little fight left too.

 

About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!

 

Just How Far Is Your Uber Driver Willing To Take You?

Most Uber passengers love the convenience and low cost of calling an Uber.  But many may be unfamiliar with a lot of the company’s policies.  Drivers on the other hand, have to stay on top of the changing landscape in order to protect themselves: whether it’s new rules regarding insurance requirements or issues with airport drop-offs, change is the only constant in this industry.

So passengers actually have it pretty easy when it comes to calling and paying for an Uber ride.  And that’s exactly how Uber wants it: their goal is a frictionless experience for passengers that allows seamless transportation from point A to point B.  That’s why you can enter your destination ahead of time, choose a Spotify playlist and rate the driver at your convenience.

Do Drivers Prefer Longer Or Shorter Rides?

According to Sherpashare, a company that sources ride data and provides driver analytics, the average Uber ride is 5.41 miles.  Sherpashare co-founder, Ryder Pearce, says “Drivers like longer rides to break up the monotony of city driving and mentally, it’s a huge boost to get a larger fare from time to time”.

Drivers actually make more money too on longer rides but since there’s no way to control the destination, they could be forced to do a return trip empty handed.  There are some features like Lyft Line’s destination filter (and Sidecar’s drop-off radius) that allows drivers to target riders headed in the same general direction as them but those features haven’t really caught on yet.

Most drivers that I talked to still prefer long rides over short ones though and for some reasons you might not expect.  Bradley Zane, a driver out of Dallas, Texas, told me that, “I prefer long trips, but not to the extent that I would lower myself to the cab driver mentality where I would refuse short trips. It is the nature of the business that some rides will be long and some will be short and the law of large numbers will shake it out.”

Sam Rubin, a driver out of Park City, Utah, also noted that, “Since most of my rides are 35 miles+ to the airport, I have close to 45 minutes to chat with my passengers. I greatly enjoy the time to learn about their career, family, visit, which restaurants they dined at, etc. And as someone that also owns a sales focused business, I feel this is great time to further practice the art of selling.”

One common complaint from drivers was that Uber’s cut can actually be as high as 40% on a $4 minimum fare (instead of the advertised 20%).  Zane stated, “there is a much higher cost for shorter trips that earn as little as $2.40 (after Trust & Safety fee and the TNC cut) in the Dallas market.”

Zane is referring to the fact that after the $1 safe ride fee and 20% Uber cut is taken out, drivers only end up with $2.40 from a minimum fare of $4.  That seemed to be a common gripe amongst the drivers I talked to.

How Far Is Too Far?

So while drivers seem to overwhelmingly prefer longer rides, is there a limit to how far your Uber driver will take you?  According to Uber’s company policy, there isn’t.  An Uber representative that I spoke with let me know that drivers are free to drop off in any state as long as the trip originates in the driver’s home market.  Some drivers in San Diego have even gotten special approval and licensing from Uber to make trips across the border down into Mexico.

Uber competitor Lyft, on the other hand, has instituted a 100 mile limit on all rides and re-requesting a ride with the same driver won’t work if you travel outside of a driver’s home market.  But even though Uber’s company policy dictates that there is no maximum distance limit for rides, drivers always reserve the right to cancel a ride if for example, they don’t want to drive to another state.

The longest such request/ride that I could find was given by a driver named Joe Strandell who picked up a woman in Santa Barbara, California and took her all the way up to Palo Alto, California.  That trip was 320 miles, took just over 5 hours and totaled a whopping $658.45.

When Joe’s navigation loaded, he was shocked to see the destination but he was up for an adventure regardless.  ”I had this epiphany while I was driving and just thought how cool it was to be getting paid to do a California road trip.  I was lucky to be a part of it”.

Not every driver will share Joe’s enthusiasm for a 320 mile Uber ride though.  Joe recommends “If you plan on calling an Uber anytime soon to take you on a cross-country journey, just make sure you give them a heads up so they can bring a change of clothes.”

 

About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!

 

This post was originally posted on Forbes.com