Uber, the wildly popular mobile app car service, roundly beat out cabs in a head-to-head Boston Herald match-up, routinely providing cheaper, cleaner, more comfortable and convenient rides.
Summoned with a simple tap on your smartphone, Uber also proved safer on average than cabs in more than a dozen test trips a Herald reporter took between Logan International Airport and Kenmore Square, as well as other destinations, over the past week.
The admittedly unscientific survey of Hub taxis found:
• Several cabbies driving recklessly, including one who hit his brakes so hard on an airport ramp that the reporter slammed into the glass partition; the driver said nothing until questioned about the near-accident, and then blamed the car he was behind;
• Numerous drivers chatting away on their cellphones, in violation of city rules; one swerved as he tried unsuccessfully to field several calls after he lost connection, looking at his smartphone while in traffic and repeatedly asking, “Hello? Hello?”;
• Another cabbie nearly careening into the back of a car inside the Sumner Tunnel, swerving and honking after the near miss;
• A driver slightly overcharging for a trip to Kenmore — racking up a $7.75 fee for tolls instead of the $7.50 allowed for trips from Boston to the airport; the driver admitted the error only after he was questioned, yet did not drop the charge;
• A taxi driver on a trip from the airport to the Seaport District barking that he took only cash, and another begging for cash, explaining that the cab company took an 8 percent cut of all credit card transactions. But he didn’t have change and had to scramble to collect smaller bills from other cabdrivers at Logan; and
• Only one of eight drivers clearly displaying his hackney photo ID from his rearview mirror.
By comparison, the Herald’s test rides found that Uber boasted friendlier drivers and spacious vehicles, often with leather seats and complimentary water bottles and candies.
The reporter took UberX, the service’s cheapest choice, on an 80-minute round-trip ride from the Seaport to Fields Corner, and then continued on to the airport, for a total cost of $40.19 — after an automatic 25 percent off thanks to a summer promotion.
UberX also beat out cabs in a ride through rush hour traffic to the airport. The 30-minute cab ride cost $31 including a 20 percent tip, while a 38-minute UberX airport trip came out to $25 total.
At the airport, Uber drivers also promptly called or texted to set up a meeting point for pickup.
One UberX driver texted a message welcoming his passenger to Boston, along with detailed instructions on how to get to the limo parking lot just outside the of Terminal A. Dressed smartly in a suit and tie, he held out an iPad with the reporter’s name like a chauffeur placard. The driver, who works for a well-known limo company, then rushed to open the door of his sleek Ford ?Fusion Hybrid.
Although police have cited language and cultural barriers as chronic issues among cabdrivers, the Herald found Uber trips with two immigrant drivers to be pleasant and easy. One, a Kenyan, had been on the job for only six months and was quick to adjust the air conditioning for comfort as temperatures approached 90 degrees.
But the Herald’s test rides also found a few flaws with Uber:
• While UberX was cheaper than taking a cab, riders taking the more posh black car service are often hit hard in the pocketbook; a 14-minute ride in the luxury SUV from the airport cost $50;
• One new Uber driver didn’t know how to get to North Station from Interstate 93 North; and
• Another with livery license plates texted on his smartphone while driving in bumper-to-bumper tunnel traffic.
©2014 the Boston Herald