Last week I used Uber X and Uber all over the Bay Area. Using Uber X my costs for a nice car, usually a Toyota Prius or something a bit larger was under $15.00 and often closer to $12.00 for rides to lunch, dinner or to get from a meeting on Treasure Island to my hotel. Other rides with Uber black cars were in the $15-25 dollar range while only my hotel supplied town car to the airport was $65.00.
I didn't wait. I didn't have any talkative drivers, the cars were spotless, the drivers pleasant and helpful with bags and packages, but most of all they got to where I needed to be on time and correctly.
Now I'll compare that to my experience here in Marseille. I used an online booking service to have a taxi and driver waiting at the airport for our flight from London Heathrow. The flight was delayed by an hour and when we arrived it was obvious the driver was a bit perturbed. The fare with service charge booked in advance was 61 Euros or $82 converted. Not bad for a Mercedes and a 25 minute ride to the Vieux Port area of town. Interestingly the meter was at 27 Euros at the start of the ride and ended at 87 euros. Booking in advance saved some money but in the Uber economy the ride starts when you get picked up, not when the driver gets the call to pick you up. Here in France you pay from that moment which is usually like adding 7-10 dollars to any ride if you call for a cab vs. hailing one down or picking one up at the taxi rank.
But it gets more clear when you realize that here in France some taxi drivers are great locally, while others leave you guessing. Our ride to dinner was one of those where it became obvious the driver had no idea where a new restaurant was located even when provided the exact street address, as he went the wrong way once, then dropped us two blocks from the location which Google Maps clearly showed. Sadly, the driver neither used GPS or Google Maps, and admitted he usually did only airport and cruise ship runs from most hotels. The fare started at 7 euros and ended up being 15 but the driver felt he made mistakes and only charged us 10. Last night coming back from dinner the fare was 13 euros and at the start the flag was at 6.20.
That starting fare is really what UBER is attacking, delivering better value to the customer and services to the driver. To realize how much Uber means to the travel public all one has to do is use it a few days in a row alternating between Uber X/XL or Uber Black and then be in a city where there's no Uber. You quickly understand how much better the Uber experience is, as you know upfront when the car service will arrive, and more importantly, what you'll be getting.