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Bham Development: Navigating Uber

navigating uber


It’s no secret that we’re Uber fans. We’ve been pushing for city council approval of the service for months, and we rushed out for an inaugural ride when it finally arrived. But now that Birmingham has weeks of Uber under its belt, we thought it was time to look at how the service works in our city and see what tips we could glean from recent user experience.

AL.com put Uber to the test on its first day of operations. Two reporters spent an evening bar-hopping together across Birmingham’s entertainment districts, with one taking Uber and one a Yellow Cab to each destination. What they found: Yellow Cab was slightly cheaper overall ($35.09 versus $37.35) but difficult to use with any of its supposed improvements — the reporter had problems with both the Yellow Cab app and the Uptown taxi stand but found that traditional phone dispatch worked well. Uber was faster on all but the last trip, which it lost to Yellow Cab by 2 minutes.

Reddit commenters had plenty to say about Uber’s New Year’s Eve operations as well, only two days after the rideshare debuted in the city. Commenters reported rides available (versus a reported 2 hour wait for a traditional cab), though the thread started with a complaint that the drivers were concentrated downtown and largely unavailable in other areas. NYE also meant surge pricing, with users reporting a $66 fair estimate between downtown and Crestwood South or $45 downtown from Glen Iris.

Based on several January reddit feeds, these are the tips we’ve gleaned for the best Uber experience:

  • Uber is easier than cabs, not necessarily cheaper.

Feedback since the surge holiday debut seems more positive, with users reporting fares around $10 over the weekend. Like AL.com, users seemed to view the prices as equal to or slightly higher than a cab with a far smoother experience. Users also discussed Birmingham’s status as a high fare city, with some speculation that pricing was a strategy to recruit more Uber drivers and might go down with time.

  • Surge pricing is real, so plan around it.

One user commented on having a super cheap ride out for the night, only to find surge prices had driven up the rate exponentially for the ride home. Another user, who claimed to have driven for Uber elsewhere, suggested using the driver app as well, which could help riders figure out the boundaries of surge pricing and save some money with a short walk.

  • Like traditional cabs, Uber works best for urban residents.

User willco17, who appears to be an Uber driver, commented that Birmingham entertainment districts only sustained surge pricing after the NYE ball drop, while folks from over the mountain could expect to pay a premium all evening. Besides benefitting from lower mileage to local bars and restaurants, Birmingham residents may be less vulnerable to surge pricing.


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