When “less expensive” actually means “more expensive”

Lo and behold, there’s another new app out there. This one, called OpenStreetCab, lets you compare Uber prices with yellow taxi fares in New York City. A bunch of computer scientists compared these prices from 2013 and 2014 and discovered the benefit shifts from yellow cab to Uber at around $35. That means for the majority of taxi rides, which are short and therefore less than $35, a yellow taxi is cheaper – despite Uber’s advertising to the contrary. I haven’t tested this, but the logic here sounds about right.

Uber has a higher minimum than a yellow cab, and their algorithm is mysterious. Taxi pricing, on the other hand, are comparatively straightforward. Prices are regulated by the TLC and measured by the meter. Sure, there are ways to influence the meter (taking some air out of tires to increase wheel revolutions is one example), but these are severely punished, and it’s not worth it for many cab drivers to even try. Uber’s fares, famously, have no limit, and are measured by time and distance using an algorithm that a regular passenger has no access to. You find out how much your ride costs after you’ve left the car. Their model, however, is elegant and slick. The convenience of using the app still makes it an attractive option despite the lack of fare transparency.

It’s good to have choice. It’s even better to know the options you’re choosing between.

Click the thumbnails to read more:

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You can check out OpenStreetCab here:

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