Since time immemorial — well, at least since F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald summered here, guzzling bootleg gin and carousing in their motorcar up and down South Compo — Westport has had a difficult relationship with drinking and driving.
We don’t condone it, of course — particularly now, in the post-Mad Men era, when we all know its dangers.
But after a night at a party, restaurant or bar, none of us may be in condition to drive. Local taxis have sketchy reputations. And not many parents will call their kids for a ride.
The San Francisco-based company connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire. Cars are reserved through a cellphone app. Payments are done by credit card, so there’s no need to carry cash.
When you need a car, you click on the app. GPS pinpoints your exact location, and estimates how long before a car gets to you.
You can select car types: a black car or SUV. UberX is the least expensive: usually a Toyota Camry or something similar. You can also rate your driver.
Uber operates in over 70 large cities — and, for the past couple of months, Westport.
A longtime local businessman — who requested anonymity — used it Friday night to return home from a party.
It cost $7 — including tip. (Uber says, however, there is “no need to tip.”)
He told a few friends. The next night, they texted Uber too.
They report that their cars were nice and clean. The drivers were pleasant. It’s a great economic opportunity for them to operate here, the Westport rider says.
“It’s great,” he adds. “You don’t have to worry about having that extra glass of wine. Once the word spreads, our roads will be much safer. And the parties more fun!”
Somewhere in that great speakeasy in the sky, F. Scott and Zelda are smiling.
Cheers ! 😉
Wow! Less expensive than shoe leather!
Wow… if we had had Uber in the late 60’s and early 70’s the mailboxes on Long Lots and the right front fenders on our parents cars would have lasted so much longer…
It’s an unlicensed taxi service delivered through a slick app facilitated by Uber (or Lyft or Sidecar) – I guess that makes it seem all modern and different, plus the whole “crowdsourcing” vibe. But calling a taxi to come pick you up and take you home has always been an option, now and back in the day.
It does seem to present a cheaper alternative – of course, the drivers are not subject to any special licensing or oversight and their auto insurance doesn’t cover any mishaps that occur while you are in the car, all of which help to explain the pricing advantage. You can also look at it as app-facilitated hitchhiking, as far as the safety of passengers is concerned – which would not have concerned me in the least when I was in my teens.
Actually, riders can rate drivers – something you don’t get when hitchhiking.
Thanks Jack for that insight. It would really suck to know that I saved $6.00 bucks and crashed into a tree, another car, or for that matter …be involved in an accident that might kill someone …all because I took An UBER car service and insurance failed to cover it. Additionally, anyone can sue anyone in this day of tort law! In my opinion…The best taxi service in Westport is Saugatuck Taxi hands down! Let’s support our local economy…even if it costs an extra couple of dollars. Hey, when a local restaurant charges $21.00 a glass for some mediocre wine, I think we can afford our local taxi service! Just my opinion.
Be careful out there.
Way back when we still lived in Wspt…my older brother used to work for a company that arranged with folks to be driven wherever they wanted to go in their own cars. He drove Paul Newman, Martha Stewart and lots of others to the airport, took their kids to boarding school etc. Since it was their own cars, I guess they were insured. It was a very successful business…My younger brother now does the same thing here in California.
UberX is great. Started using it in DC. Super convenient compared to monopoly taxicabs – visual GPS based, automatic billing to a credit card,instant driver ratings feedback, etc.
Every UberX provider has $1M commercial insurance coverage provided by Uber Inc., in addition to the driver’s personal policy.
Uber’s form of regulation, ie. user ratings of individual providers ala Amazon, Yelp, eBay, TripAdvisor models is, IMHO, far more useful than any governmental bureaucratic (and industry captive) regulatory scheme.
Mark – While I appreciate that you have repeated Uber’s statement regarding how the insurance Uber provides works, in fact it will typically not operate as “in adition to” the driver’s personal auto policy, since any claim that occurs during the course of “for hire” activity is plainly excluded from coverage under most every personal auto policy out there. And I also note that Uber’s commercial non-owned auto policy – the one with the $1 million liability limit – seems to provide somewhat limited coverage, given early reports of claim experience.
As for the user feedback model replacing government licensing and oversight of public transportation activitites, time and experience will tell; I am certainly a “less government” and free market kind of guy myself, but experience has shown us that the market and publicity alone does an inadequate job of ensuring the safety and fair treatment of the public in areas such as this.
According to the R Street Institute, companies like Uber and Lyft are working with insurance companies and regulators to come up with innovative new products to address the needs of their drivers: http://www.insurancejournal.com/blogs/right-street/2014/07/14/334524.htm.
As for self-regulation of the market, my experience with every single Uber trip I’ve taken here in DC has been better than any cab ride I’ve taken in my life. The cabs here are dirty and not well kept, and cab drivers frequently violate the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s regulations (and, of course, the TLC could care less about following up on these violations in a timely manner, if ever). Every Uber and UberX driver, on the other hand, keeps their cars clean and is immediately rated by their customers after every trip. Every time I’ve rated a driver less than 4 stars (very rarely, usually for taking a wrong turn somewhere), someone from Uber has followed up with me within minutes; they’ve even given me refunds occasionally (good luck getting a refund from a cab company)! Self-regulation in the market *can* work; I see it everyday in the new sharing economy.
I wonder why you were issued refunds. Is it because you were I satisfied with the quality of service or is that you were charged ahead of time and you had to be refunded because the driver never showed up.
The former. The charge isn’t applied until after your trip. Occasionally, with a new driver, they may not be familiar with particular routes and take a wrong turn, leading to a higher than normal fare for the trip.
After paying $16 to get from the train station to my house downtown, I welcome any and all forms of competition to the current crop of taxi services in Westport.
Oh, and Uber recently gave me 2 credits wroth $30 each for rides in CT.
Big fan of Uber…..
Let’s see what happens when you are involved in an accident
Our local taxis are gross and dangerous and have had a monopoloy for way too long, I’ve never had an issue with Uber and I use them all the time within the city, to/from the airport, and to/from Westport.
Monopoly means one cab company. There are two taxi cab companies in Westport so their is no monopoly .
Fine, a duopoly.
Average service, abysmal cars. over priced – that’s what you get when you control the market.
Uber may work in some big cities wear taxi cabs are in there hundreds or thousands and licensed and most important INSURED AND EXPERIENCED. Not in are great town of Westport and surrounding towns. If there is an accident or kidnapping who will you go after. Uber who doesn’t care or the driver who you do not know or ever seen before who may not be licensed or insured . I would rather use my local taxi cab company who I know that they are proberly insured and registered by the dot of are state. DOT
makes sure that are cab companies are properly registered and insured to limits that are to the satisfaction of security.
Uber sounds great but if you read and watch the news you would see how many lawsuits Über is facing.
I WOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE I BOOK A CAR THREW UBER.
And that is why America is still great… you take a cab and i’ll take Uber, we have a choice.
Do they still have minibuses and maxi taxis? Guess not. They performed similar functions in town in the 70s and 80s.
With Uberfluss be ubermutig or ubermorgen all will be ubergehen.
– Nancy Hunter Wilson
The last time I took a taxi at the Westport railroad station, my driver got into a very colorful and slightly scary shouting match with another driver who felt that I should have gotten in his car. Some pounding of hoods followed. It was as if I had never left New York!
Great alternative to our craptastic taxi service. Competition is good.
Never I knew I had to worry about kidnappings in Westport. Is this common?
(That gives me a chance to fall-back on my favorite strategy for voting when I was on RTM – listen for the dopiest argument and vote against it.)