Late Tuesday night my fiancée and I were making our way home from band practice on a long trek from Queens to our apartment in New Jersey. New Jersey’s public transit pales in comparison to New York City’s subways, so we’ve been using Uber to take care of the troublesome portions of our ride home.
A minute after I requested a car with the Uber app, our ride arrived. It was a pristine Honda driven by a polite young man named Ihab. We hopped in, relieved that we’d be home soon.
A few seconds later we were startled when a policeman, on foot, knocked on the driver’s window at a stoplight.
The officer said something to the effect of, “Are you taking these people somewhere?” to which the driver replied, “Yes! Yes! Uber! I am with Uber!” He seemed to be under the impression that the policeman would let him go once he knew this was an Uber ride, but that wasn’t the case.
The officer made us get out of the car and told us that we had gotten into an illegal taxi. He tried to get us to go into an official Hoboken Taxi, but we declined because we didn’t have cash on us. When we asked if we could take another Uber car, the officer said that we could as long as they had livery plates and were taking us outside of Hoboken. In other words, we couldn’t take Uber.
I immediately knew what was happening. The City of Hoboken is protecting its inferior taxi business by using legal intimidation, fining Uber drivers and leaving their customers stranded on the street. Without these shakedowns, it’s possible that everyone would eventually switch to Uber and Hoboken’s official taxis would be where they belong: out of business.
Shocked by the sheer stupidity of the entire situation, we walked deeper into Hoboken’s side streets and called another Uber car when we were sure we weren’t around any more police. We got in as fast as we could, just in case Officer Friendly should spot us committing the crime of trying to get home safely.
Uber outdoes official cabs in every way. With Hoboken’s cabs, I have to wait in a long line of drunken idiots at a taxi stand to get in a smelly cab. Then I have to share that cab with one of these inebriated tools even though I receive no discount on my fare for that inconvenience. With Uber, I pull out my phone and a car is there in a few minutes. I don’t have to share the car with drunk, fist-pumping morons I don’t know and the cars are always clean.
The Hoboken taxis don’t have meters, and the drivers don’t tell you up front how much your ride will cost. I think they expect you to just guess, hoping that you’ll guess a little too high. And you have to pay in cash; they don’t accept cards. Uber cars don’t have meters, either, but the app on my phone gives me a quote and when the ride is over it’s charged to my account automatically.
The Hoboken cabs cost me $12 including tip to get home. The Uber cars cost about $8.
Uber wins by a landslide. So it seems that’s why The City of Hoboken has decided to use unethical but legal intimidation tactics to “encourage” people to use their own taxi service.
Working against technological progress is a mug’s game, especially when that technology is bringing people together for mutually beneficial exchange. Fighting Uber by harassing their riders and drivers is pointless. The police are supposed to exist to protect and serve the citizens, not to protect a taxi monopoly and serve their need for profit. They need to leave us, and Uber, alone.