The omnipresent web, as accessed through our smartphones, has changed how we navigate the world. Meena and I just ordered dinner through Seamless, my phone blares an ominous warning — one I hadn’t heard since I was a kid — when bad weather will strike, and Yelp can find you a tasty meal in the most unfamiliar neighborhood. I was recently introduced to a web service that isn’t brand new (although not many people I know have heard of it), and it helps that navigation in a much more literal sense.
You might think that a private cab service might not be of much value to someone who lives in New York. For the most part, I’d agree with that. On any street corner, you can stick out your hand and have a cab in less than 60 seconds… most of the time. I know I can be a little Manhattan-centric, but some parts of the boroughs don’t see nearly as much taxi traffic. And if it starts raining, no matter where you are, forget it.
This is where Uber comes in. After downloading their app, you can see all the nearest cars that are available to pick you up, watch them move along a map toward your location, and pick you up curbside. They take you where you need to go, and when you arrive, you simply get out of the car. No fumbling with cash, no swiping your card for the third time because the machine couldn’t read it, no pleading that you’re just fifty cents short. The service automatically bills your credit card and e-mails you a receipt.
I recently had a chance to use the service. I was in Queens, a bit of a hike away from the nearest reliable cab I could hail. Instead, I hailed it through Uber’s Android app, received a text when the driver was ready to pick me up, and had a pleasant, easy ride home. The fare, admittedly, is higher than a yellow cab. A normally $22 cab ride turned into a $32 Uber ride, although the convenience makes it worth it. (I didn’t half to walk the half-mile to Queens Blvd. at midnight.)
If you live in another city, it may be even more worth your while. I know New York is kind of an outlier in how easily we can get cabs here, so if you live in LA or somewhere, this might be a good default option. Uber is currently in about two dozen cities, and I’m betting they have some interest in adding more.
A discount code helped justify that extra $10; in fact, it brought me right back down to normal price. If the bulkier price tag makes you a little wary, you can do the same. I have a referral code if you click right here that will knock $10 off a trip for you, and it’ll do the same for me.
I don’t take cabs too often, and I won’t switch to using Uber every time I need one. Especially in Manhattan, if you can’t take a train, you can take a bus, and if you can’t take a bus, there are those omnipresent yellow cabs. But sometimes, this be a really handy tool to have in my back pocket (literally). If you’re out this weekend, maybe give it a shot.