My Barrhaven Uber experience

The Greenbelt that surrounds Barrhaven brings many interesting visitors to our community, including wild turkeys, coyotes, bears and now foxes. It also isolates us from the greater Ottawa region, thus providing an increased sense of community. Along with these wonderful benefits, it also brings along some pretty hefty commuting costs.

Everyone needs to commute. Whether it’s to get to work or visit family and friends, we all need to get places. Some of us use our cars, others prefer mass transit. Some bike, others walk. Point is, the need to get around is a trait we all share.

I recently hosted a mid-summer dinner party where alcohol was served.  My friends are a pretty responsible bunch, and we all have a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving, therefore we usually call cabs for our guests at the end of the evening. But this time, we tried something different. We used Uber instead of a traditional taxi service.

Our reason for doing so was entirely financial. As I have stated in previous articles, we have always enjoyed great service from local taxi drivers; they have always provided us with timely service and clean cars with friendly drivers. But we feel that their services are much too expensive. This should come as no surprise from an industry that operates as a near monopoly. Lack of competition always leads to higher prices for consumers.

So how does Uber perform. In short, surprisingly well.

Video Demonstration – How Uber works

The Uber app knows where it’s vehicles are located and can quickly dispatch the nearest free car to your address. This might seem trivial, but consider this. I’m told by a reliable source that Ottawa taxi drivers do not want their employer to use GPS to track their location (disclosure: I have not confirmed this information with any local taxi company). This means that traditional taxi companies must rely on other means to find a car that is near your location. If this is true, even if local taxi companies had a smartphone app similar to Uber, they would not be able to use it as effectively as Uber does.

So getting back to our use of Uber. We entered my address and destination details into the Uber app and within a minute were matched up with a car and driver. We could see the drivers rating and even had the ability to call him directly if need be. But this is where things got interesting. The driver showed up in our driveway within minutes of placing our order. No doubt he must have been just around the corner at the time, but the responsiveness of the service was outstanding.

The car that was dispatched to us was a small sedan (think Honda Civic or Ford Escort) with no visible markings. Our first guest entered the car and was soon off to his destination which was near the corner of Hunt Club and Albion roads. Using a traditional taxi for this trip usually cost between $37-$40 dollars. The Uber price was $22. Almost half the cost of established taxi companies. Guess which service I’ll be using going forward.

One small glitch in the system is that we were not able to order a second Uber car until the first car completed its fare. But given that we could watch the progress of the drive on our smartphone, we knew exactly when we could order the second vehicle.

The second order went just as smoothly as the first, but the driver was not as familiar with our area and took somewhat longer to show up. But it was nice to be able to call him directly and help guide him to our address. Again, a nice clean unmarked mid-sized sedan with a friendly driver showed up in our driveway.

So yes, both traditional taxi companies and Uber provide a satisfactory level of customer service. Clean cars, timely service and friendly drivers. The only difference is that Uber can often provide the service for less money. And with all things being equal, I’ll let my pocketbook make the decision on which service to use going forward.

One final note – The Barrhaven Blog has recently launched a new (and free) classified ad site that is exclusive to Barrhaven residents. I would like to invite you all to visit and list any items you may want to sell.