Annie Tittiger | Photo: Illustrations by Adam McCauley | June 1, 2012
Smartphone-powered car services are a new means to catch a ride.
There’s a new private car service in town—SideCar—joining Uber as a second smartphone-enabled method for catching a ride in this taxi-deficient town. To see how the two compare, we conducted a pseudoscientific experiment: one night, one route (about a three-mile ride between the Marina and the Mission)—with a traditional hailed-on-the-street cab ride serving as a control. Here are the results.
THE SERVICE Uber uber.com
HOW IT WORKS The company’s app uses GPS, which isn’t always accurate. We were on Union and Octavia, and the app thought we were on Polk and Filbert. Luckily, the driver found us—15 minutes after we called.
THE COST $23, at an $8 base, plus $4.90 per mile.
THE WHEELS A cushy town car.
THE CABBIE Exactly what you’d expect from a chauffeur: pleasant but reserved.
THE MUSIC KOIT 96.5’s “favorite love songs” hour.
SPEED OF TRIP 12 minutes. Took Buchanan up the hill from Union and hit every stop sign, until finally turning onto the much quicker Gough.
VERDICT If you’re going to a swanky event and want to show up in style, Uber’s your friend. Otherwise, why pay the premium?
THE SERVICE Luxor 415-282-4141, luxorcab.com
HOW IT WORKS Raise your hand, and it will pull up to the curb, which ours did nearly right away.
THE COST $16, at the city’s standard rate of $3.50 for the first fifth of a mile and $.55 for every subsequent fifth.
THE WHEELS The typical four-door sedan.
THE CABBIE Let’s just say he made no effort to mask his annoyance at having to be awake at 2 a.m.
THE MUSIC None, which resulted in that awkward feeling that the cabbie was eavesdropping on our conversation.
SPEED OF TRIP 10 minutes. Franklin all the way, so thanks to the timed lights and our cabbie’s iron foot, we were there in no time.
VERDICT Best if you’re in a hurry and you happen to spot an empty cab. (Though the speed can be tough on your stomach and nerves.)
THE SERVICE Sidecar 415-745-5553, SIDE.CR
HOW IT WORKS Folks at this service are big on keeping you informed. It took the driver at least 10 minutes to show up, but we received no fewer than four calls and texts letting us know where he was.
THE COST Strange but true: SideCar suggests an amount—in this case, $11—but it’s ultimately the customer’s decision. You literally could pay $1.
THE WHEELS A Chrysler Town & Country minivan.
THE CABBIE Brian, from Liverpool, England, who claimed he “saw the Beatles before they were the Beatles.” Kind of felt like getting a lift from your distant British uncle.
THE MUSIC Jazz from his iPhone, which prompted a lovely conversation about how the genre is lost on most of “you kids’” generation
SPEED OF TRIP 17 minutes. Several annoying detours, including one where the driver’s app told him to turn left on Van Ness, which is illegal.
VERDICT The drivers are pleasant, and the price is right (for customers, if not for the company—let’s see how long it survives), so it’s perfect for anyone who’s not in a big rush. THE WINNER!