There are inevitable days when we can’t--or would rather not--use our personal vehicles. There are “coding” situations, scheduled maintenance, or times when you just want to avoid the soul-sucking experience of Metro Manila traffic.
Back in the day, we’d hail a cab and get the ride over with. However, lately we’ve been using the Uber service. We know we’re a little late in the game, but we think this service has definite potential, despite the mind-boggling attempt by some local lawmakers to halt its operations.
To help settle the debate, we pit both transport methods against each other: traditional versus high-tech. Regular taxicab versus Uber. We list a feature that is necessary to use both of them, and see which of the two services is better. There’s nothing like a rundown to shed some light on the confusion. Let’s begin.
For regular taxis, we line up in designated queueing areas in malls, or wait by the roadside and try to hail a cab. If it’s not rush hour, an empty taxi should pass by. If it’s uwian time, you might want to consider watching a movie or having a meal first.
For Uber, the app informs you of the availability of cars and how much your expected fare is--all you have to do is tap your finger. From our experience, all it takes is a few minutes before a car arrives.
Before entering a taxi, we ask the driver if he’s agreeable to our destination. This is to save ourselves the trouble of getting out again if we discover the driver’s route is different from our intended route.
Once contracted, Uber-driven cars go to the agreed destination. No questions asked.
We’ve experienced taxis with crumpled tissue in the grab handle receptacle, or footwells that are yearning for a vacuum. And let’s not get started on the weird smells.
In the meantime, all Uber cars we’ve ridden smell good, and feel well maintained. In fact, the only complaint we have is that some cars smell so good that the scent sticks to our clothes.
Granted, there are new taxis plying the streets. But majority of them are still vehicles older than five years, and going well past their scheduled maintenance routines. And at least once in our life, we’ve all experienced riding in a taxi that has died while we’re riding.
All Uber cars we’ve ridden are fairly new. By Uber rules, cars have to be model year 2007 or newer to qualify for the service, and there’s actually a list of pre-approved makes and models.
Taxi drivers listen to angry AM radio shows and give you unwanted opinion on why their political candidate should win. And that’s if they let you in their taxi in the first place.
Although we think it’s a bit too much, some Uber drivers hold the door open for us to make it easier to board. And most are pleasant and have just the right amount of cheerfulness.
Taxis have a set rate of P30 as flag-down fee, and P3.50 for every succeeding 300m. But this becomes irrelevant if the taxi driver disregards the meter and asks for a contracted rate. Which happens quite often.
Uber charges P40 for the base fare, P2 per minute, and P5.70 for every kilometer. This makes it a little complicated to compute an exact amount even for routine trips. But in our experience, the prices are either the same, or even a little more affordable than taxi rides over the same destinations. We’re talking about the regular Uber X, by the way, and not the more premium Uber Black. And during rush hour, there’s surge pricing that definitely makes Uber X more expensive than taxis. But at least you know beforehand how much you have to shell out before calling for an Uber ride.
We’ve been dreaming of an app like this for taxis. We’ve always wanted a rating system so we can give feedback on that sleepy driver, or the one who believes swerving is the fastest way to get to a destination.
Uber lets you give a rating to whoever drove for you. The scale is from one to five stars. It’s a great feedback mechanism.
Final tally: Uber - 7, Taxi - 0
So there we have it--our fair and unbiased guide to which transportation method is better. We hope the lawmakers trying to block Uber realize the folly of their ways and try to help this fledgling technology take off, instead of crippling the best alternative to traditional taxis.
And to the taxi companies desperately attempting to halt the growth of Uber and similar network vehicle services, our advice is simple: Respect the primal premise of free enterprise and let the customers decide. If you want us to choose taxis, give us good reasons to do so. If not, join the dinosaurs.
Photos by Dinzo Tabamo