“If you’re not familiar with Uber, you’ll likely soon be…”
At 1:35 p.m. last Thursday my friend Robert and I caught a Health Sciences Campus bus and were headed back to campus.
At 1:49 p.m. we received emails letting us know that Uber had gone live in Athens.
At 2:00 p.m. we ordered the first Uber ride in Athens.
At 2:08 p.m. a shiny, late model Toyota Camry pulled up, and we were whisked back to our house by Teresa, our driver, who just happened to be one of our neighbors.
At 2:20 p.m. we arrived at home and knew we’d never have to use other cabs in Athens again.
If you’re not familiar with Uber, you’ll likely soon be, since the smartphone-ordered ride service has taken cities from Atlanta to Dubai (over 200 total as of today) by storm.
Of course, wherever innovation is found, resistance will follow. Uber’s rise has been no different.
Due to Uber’s unique business model, it can offer quicker, better, and more convenient rides. In response, cabbies in cities across the globe have begun lobbying governments to regulate Uber in order to suffocate it. Germany is the latest to turn the screws, but it has happened all over. During the most recent session of the Georgia General assembly, I wrote about Rep. Allen Powell’s (R-Hartwell) failed crusade against ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. It seems that now that the bill has died, Uber feels comfortable expanding to more cities in Georgia than just Atlanta.
That’s a win for everyone that lives — and plays — in Athens.
As every student knows, taxis in Athens are awful. Horrible, even. Drivers are almost completely unaccountable, they regularly take advantage of drunk students on pricing, and they smell like death (stains are assumed). The taxis charge a flat per-head rate, which means that a $6 ride home with five friends will cost $36 total. Add a tip and it’s even more.
To put that in perspective, the last time I was in D.C. five friends and I took an Uber town car from DC to Maryland, a seven mile trip, for $34. Considering that UberX, the lower cost alternative, is the only service currently available in Athens, taxis are going to find that Uber will give them stiff competition in the Classic City — though “surge pricing” may make the yellow dogs more competitive on busy days, such as gamedays.
The advantages that Uber has over conventional Athens taxis are considerable, though.
With Uber, you can order your car and forget about it until it arrives, instead of trying to flag down a driver on Broad Street at 2:05 a.m. along with all the other students pouring themselves out of Mags.
Additionally, Uber works entirely through the app, which is linked to your credit card. This is a vast improvement over traditional taxis that mandate cash-only transactions.
We’ll have to wait to see if Uber is successful against Athens taxis. Athens-Clarke County may attempt to put additional regulations onto the service at the insistence of the traditional taxis, or we may be lucky enough to see existing taxi services innovate in response to pressure from their new competitor.
For now, to paraphrase the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi, “A journey of several miles begins by ordering an Uber.”
—Colin Daniels is a senior studying political science and public health
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