posted 6 months ago

Uber Vs Black Cabs - Which Gets Your Vote?

We Weigh up the Pros & Cons of Each While Voicing Your Complaints and Compliments of Both.

Here's one simple statistic to show that this is an issue to be taken seriously; just 8 new taxi companies were registered with Companies House between January - April 2016. compared to 290 over the same period last year and 300 the year before. Why is this frightening decline happening? Uber.

You’ll have seen it on social media, in the news and in the App Store. Uber is taking over the world one city at a time, offering consumers and drivers an alternative to the heavily regulated and over-inflated Black Cabs that us British all know and love. If you’re unfamiliar with Uber, it is basically an app that the general public can use to hail a mini-cab, the difference being that the cab can be driven by anyone and they’re likely to be driving their own personal vehicle. In the capital alone there are more than 15,000 Uber ‘Partner-Drivers’ and chief executive Travis Kalanick has said he expects that to rise to 42,000 in 2016.

Resistance has been proposed from the Transport for London (TfL) who mean to propose new rules which will restrict the benefits of Uber. This comes after Strike action was taken by the Cab drivers in April, May, June and August of this year. Proposed restrictions include a mandatory 5-minute minimum wait and action against carpooling under the service ‘uberPOOL’ whereby different users can share an Uber driver if they’re heading in the same direction. These threats from TfL come as the iconic London Black Cab industry has been crippled in the last 2 years since Uber was introduced.

 Today we’re weighing up the Pros & Cons of both services with complaints and compliments voiced by the general public. At the end of this article, there is a poll where we want you to vote where you think the future lies for private hire and Taxi services. Be sure to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section, we want to know if there is a future where Uber and Black Cabs can co-exist in relative rush-hour harmony.

Uber

Pros:

    • Accessibility - Uber customers value the ease of access to Uber cars which are available around the clock and can be accessed 24/7 - all the user needs to do is open an app on their smartphone and call in the nearest Uber. Simple, user-friendly and effective.

    • Support & Assistance - The seamless App provided by Uber is hailed as one of the best transport apps on the market. Offering a comprehensive service featuring driver reviews, real time progress and tracking. The company also offer a dedicated support team and assistance in case your experience is problematic. A service which dis-satisfied Black Cab customers would desire.

  • Ease & Security of Payment - The cashless Payment is another one of the fantastic perks of the Uber app. Customers take comfort in the fact that they are not required to hand over physical money to someone who is essentially a stranger. The user can also leave reviews of their driver if they feel so obliged, meaning the driver is incentivised to act professionally and pleasantly.

  • Value for Money - It works out that getting an Uber around London can work out up to 34% cheaper than getting a black cab. This is of course because there are less stringent rules on 'private hire' cabs than there are on Taxis. The 'Surge Charge', which increases the rates drivers charge during busy periods, can negate this as the rates can soar to near Black-Cab levels. 

Cons:

    • Inconsistent Costs - The price of an Uber cab can soar depending on situations and circumstances. In London for example, consumers can expect to pay a ‘Surge Charge’ during rush hour which can increase significantly. Some users reported a 300% increase in price during the Tube Strike earlier this year.

    • Cleanliness - Another issue commonly raised by Uber customers is the cleanliness of the vehicles they are collected in. Black Cabs feature hard-wearing vinyl upholstery and rubber floor mats meaning they are very easy to keep clean and (usually) hygienic. Uber drivers, of course, are in normal cars and don’t necessarily feel obliged to keep their interior clean as there is much less accountability when working for themselves.

    • Knowing the Roads - There is no road knowledge required for individuals to become Uber drivers. Local knowledge and being streetwise are two of the most valuable traits for successful Black Cab drivers whereas Uber drivers simply follow their Sat Navs, which can take them through heavily congested areas when quicker alternatives may be available.

    • Language and communication - Uber drivers are not required to take any language or communication tests when applying to become an Uber driver and this is often reflected in the interactions with customers…

    • Insurance is one large grey area - earlier this year a whistle-blower from within Uber exposed that there is an automated system approving illegitimate insurance documents provided by Uber drivers. A representative from the Guardian then demonstrated that they could supply Uber with false documents and went on to pick up a paying customer.

    • Uber currently offer very limited services to those who suffer from physical disabilities. As Uber drivers use their own vehicles, which are not purpose-built, few of them have the correct facilities to cater for wheelchair access. This has partially been addressed under the new 'UberASSIST' service which was introduced in London in October 2015. This scheme was only rolled out to 100 drivers in London though, a dismally small percentage of the 42,000 drivers Uber will have in the capital in 2016.
    • Another 'Con' for Uber would be the company culture, which has publicly come under criticism. A full exposé can be found here, where an ex-employee states she found herself working 80-100 hours a week and still feeling as though she was behind. Her words 'Working for Uber is a sprint, with marathon hours.' Uber have also fallen short when it comes to protecting the details of their users. It only takes a quick search of Twitter to find individuals who have been hacked and charged for rides they never took. We'd imagine Uber are similarly quick to refund these victims, but this is unsettling nonetheless...

Black Cabs

Pros:

  • 'Can be summoned at the roadside.' There are currently 22,500 Black Cabs roaming the streets of London as we speak. If you find yourself by a fairly busy road, chances are you won’t be waiting long until a Hackney Carriage comes along with an illuminated orange ‘TAXI’ sign on the roof and, being a registered Taxi, you can summon the vehicle at the roadside without having to book through an operator beforehand.

  • Accountable Drivers & Standards to live up to - It is thought that the new competition from Uber drivers has improved the Black Cab service. Now that there is some heated competition between the two parties

  • Vast Road Knowledge - every taxi driver pushing themselves around in a Black cab through the streets of London has been vigorously tested on their road knowledge. To become a black cab driver, you must first pass ‘The Knowledge’ test which usually takes 3 to 5 years of studying. The test itself involves detailed verbal conversation whereby the driver must announce the best route from A to B to C and back again, from any random locations across the 250,000 roads in the capital.

  • Credibility - Black Cab drivers are obliged to take a further driving test to prove they are worthy of carrying people through hectic busy streets. Known as the DSA Taxi Driving Test, this includes the teaching of proper techniques for picking up and dropping off passengers safely as well as much more rigorous procedures that Taxi Drivers are expected to do on a daily basis. Furthermore, Taxi Drivers must complete, and pass, an enhanced CRB check (criminal records bureau) to ensure they are to be trusted with transporting individuals. This check has simply been ignored by Uber until very recently, which may be the reason behind a number of reported assaults from drivers on passengers. See here for a comprehensive (and rather worrying) list.

Cons:

  • There are drawbacks to the Black Cabs of course. First and foremost are the expensive rates charged by the drivers. Transport for London highlight their fares and rates here, and they work out noticeably more expensive than getting an Uber, but there is a good reason for this. Hackney carriages pay for certain privileges on the road, such as being able to use Bus Lanes and the permission to be summoned at the road-side instead of via an operator.

  • Requires the user to carry cash around. Now, this may not seem to be such a huge con, but to this date not all Hackney Carriages accept card payments, which means users often have to ask the driver to stop a cash point, increasing their fare. Better still, we’ve now moved into a world of contact-less payment and a large number of Black Cabs haven’t caught up and seriously need to do some catching up.

Our Sales and Media Director, who lives in London and has been using Uber since its inception, said: "I'd estimate that I've now had over 150 lifts from Uber in my time, and only very recently I have had to change how I use the service. I'm rarely taken aback by the value anymore, not nearly as much as I was when I first started using it. There have been noticeable declines in cleanliness, road knowledge and availability - particularly in rush hour. In fact, the 'Surge' charge is the reason I leave it to the professionals and use a Black Cab in rush hour. They're a similar price at that time and know all the best routes and shortcuts."

Conclusion

Are you a serial Uber-er or do you prefer the traditional Black Cabs? It is fair to say that currently both services have areas for improvement but can they co-exist? Consumers are always likely to go where the price is most affordable, giving Uber the upper-hand, but even the most committed Uber-users have confessed to switching to Black Cabs to avoid the 'Surge Charge.' Which do you swear by?