I was late to the Uber party.
“I’m a New Yorker. A yellow cab is all I need!” I proclaimed loudly and often.
Except sometimes cabs are in short supply. Kind of often actually. There are a lot more people in NYC now than when I lived here the first time. With that in mind, I downloaded the Uber app so that the next time I couldn’t find a cab, I’d be prepared.
Sure enough, the time came to try Uber: I landed at JFK late on a recent Friday night after a long flight home from San Francisco. Sick with bronchitis, I couldn’t face a cab line.
The user interface is easy to use. In a few clicks, I had confirmation that a driver was on his way. I was texted not only his cell phone number, but his photo and his car model.
I found the driver quite easily which is worth commenting on given the chaos that is normal for Arrivals at JFK. Unfortunately the experience was disappointing from that point forward.
The driver was pleasant; his vehicle, reeking of stale smoke, was not. Traffic was spectacularly bad which meant I was stuck in the smoky car for a little over an hour. I was miserable.
When we finally arrived at my apartment, it was lovely to just exit the car. Uber had my payment info stored and tipping on top of the billed amount wasn’t requested or expected. I just hopped out, gathered my belongings and returned to the comfort of home.
Soon after, though, I got a nasty surprise: because of the traffic and the distance (16 miles) to my apartment, my fare was an exorbitant $82.
A promotional credit took $20 off, but compared to a yellow taxi, the Uber cost is hard to justify. I could have called a local car service and paid a flat fare versus Uber’s model of paying for both time and distance.
To Uber’s credit, when I told them about the smoke issue when doing the standard post-ride rating, they responded by giving me $10 toward a future ride.
I felt burned by the high fare, but have used Uber twice since the JFK transfer.
The first time was a trip from Little Italy to Williamsburg after I tried and failed to hail a taxi ($19 fare compared to ~$14 for a yellow cab). The second was in the theater district around midnight on an unseasonably cold night while I was wearing uncomfortable heels ($36 fare, high by about $10).
I’m sure I’ll use Uber again. I just wish I could do so with enthusiasm–without cost certainty, I can’t.