Uber v. taxi in Brooklyn and Queens: twice as fast but no cheaper

The results of one day’s observation of taxi and Uber service in the outer boroughs of New York – the pilot phase of what is planned as a larger study – are now in.  Our riders in fact used three systems—street-hailing yellow cabs or Boro cabs, phoning NYC car ride services, and app-summoning UberX—in two randomly-selected low-income, low-crime areas, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens. 

Even ignoring the substantial number of cases where no taxi or boro-cab service was available within a thirty-minute period or where the request for a ride was refused entirely, total time from initiating the request to being in a car was half as long for Uber as for the two varieties of taxi service. That more or less matched the results from Los Angeles. By contrast with the LA results, there was no measurable difference in price.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Uber v. taxi in Brooklyn and Queens: twice as fast but no cheaper”

  1. Is Mark going for the record in time between data gathering and publication?
    I suppose that modern computers have made what used to be the laborious part of research, data analysis, a matter of hours.

  2. Mark, I have a few questions.

    1. When you compare pricing, do you net out the portion of the cab fare that goes to the government or the MTA? From a public policy perspective that doesn't seem like a pure "cost," though of course it is a cost to the rider. If UberX were to displace taxi cabs entirely, it would create about an $87,000,000 hole in the MTA's budget (resulting in increased bus/subway fares, higher taxes, or less transit service).

    2. Did you try the e-hailing apps that are available for hailing taxi cabs?

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