Word just got out that even the mayor is impressed and thinks Uber is here to stay, but controversy over the upstart “ride-sharing” service still reigns in the comment sections. So really, why Uber in Atlanta?
There are valid points of contention in the Uber vs. Taxicab wars: licensing and taxation, differences in background checks but I feel, and by the sound of it many agree, that if Atlanta’s taxicabs can’t step up the game on basic customer service and reliability, Uber is going to win.
I want to be able to put my faith in the cabbies, I do, I want to give them business, but every ride is such an ordeal! You have to guide them street by street to obvious parts of town (“Reynoldstown? Moreland? ok you know where Little Five Points is?”) and stories proliferate of cabs that can’t take credit cards, or, like ours from the airport recently (my last chance to get N to support the cabs) talk the whole time about how gracious he is for taking credit cards though he’d prefer cash. The cars are always filthy and there is, disconcertingly once you realize he doesn’t know where you’re going, no map in sight, not a paper map nor a GPS nor a phone. I don’t know what kind of taxi driver test they have to pass but ain’t rigorous.
My most appalling cab story came one evening when I was walking Bella in Reynoldstown. From a stopped cab up ahead a passenger emerged and said to me “maybe you can help!” he was trying to get to JCT (bar and restaurant) and he was a visitor to Atlanta, even coming from the airport i believe. Since the cabbie didn’t know where JCT was, or apparently have a way to find out, the passenger, completely inept as well in his knowledge of Atlanta, had to pull up a map on his phone and direct the cabbie with no way of knowing if things were going right or not. There was major miscommunication between the front and back seats and this fellow was IN THE MIDDLE OF REYNOLDSTOWN (SE of downtown), miles from his westside (NW of downtown) destination. The crickets chirped in the dark neighborhood street, so far off the mark was he that I at first didn’t know what JCT was. My mental map came up soon enough though and I directed them back out to the interstate, a simple enough process, and tried to calm them both down. But when I paused to ask if my directions were clear (right, left, interstate!), the cabbie, frustration with his passenger clouding his vision apparently combined with actual directional incompetence, shook his head. sigh.
So Uber drivers? well, they have phones with maps and gps systems. If they don’t know the place you’re talking about, they type it in to the GPS at the beginning of the ride. smart folks these, and they are courteous about it too! The app of course is great, you can talk directly to your driver when they’re on the way, the simplicity of payment is handy (though still weird to only leave with a ‘thanks, have a good day!’), and the quality of the ride itself (clean!) also a BIG plus. Maybe Uber has spoiled us rotten in the year they’ve been here but ultimately it’s the reliability on a ride and the faith I can have in my driver’s ability to get me where I need to go, kind of the point of a taxi service right?