Uber, the app-based transportation company, dropped its rates for the discounted uberX service while raising prices for the signature UberBLACK cars, effective Aug. 18.
Originally Uber’s only service, this high-end town car service now charges a minimum of $15, with a $7 base fare that adds $3.40 per mile traveled in the vehicle, approximately a 7 percent increase on previous rates. The cancellation fee also doubled from $5 to $10.
“As UberBLACK is our premium rider experience, we are continually striving to have it be recognized as the go-to luxury ride in D.C.,” Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh wrote. “The goal of the initiative is higher earnings for partners and higher quality for riders.”
The service also permanently cut its uberX prices by 15 percent this month, making it 30 percent cheaper than a local taxi, according to Durkosh.
Durkosh stressed the importance of having a variety of transportation options for any person’s budget.
“Riders really love having multiple options available via the Uber platform and at various price points,” she wrote in an email.
UberX, Uber’s most popular service in D.C., has a consumer base of mostly young people under the age of 40 looking for inexpensive transportation, making the ride-sharing service a popular option among Georgetown students.
“I did notice the price change when I took uberX last week, and it will probably make me more likely to take it because uberX or taxi is all I use anyway,” Sohum Patel (MSB ‘17) said.
Audrey Fangmeyer (NHS ’17), however, said that while she noticed the price cut, she did not see herself using uberX more because of it.
“I noticed the change, got an email from Uber and 15 percent is a significant price cut, but as it is I don’t use Uber or uberX very often, so I don’t see the change affecting me,” she said.
She pointed to the popularity of the uberX service as an affordable alternative to the pricier town cars. The cheaper option began serving the D.C. area in August 2013 and features hybrid and mid-range cars.
Because of the presence of other available cheaper options, students were unconcerned by the price hike.
“I don’t really use the town cars, and uberX is cheaper anyway, so the price changes wouldn’t really affect me,” Aaron Wen (SFS ’17) said.
Founded in San Francisco in March 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, Uber, along with other unregulated ride-sharing companies, has recently come under fire for offering inadequate insurance to its riders, incomplete background checks on drivers and minimal driver training and vehicle inspection.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issued a cease-and-desist letter to both Uber and Lyft, another ride-sharing company, on June 5. While D.C. Taxicab Commission spokesperson Neville Waters (GRD ’91) said that no such plans are underway in the District, the DCTC has proposed regulations on Uber’s service, including a proposal in April to limit the hours of Uber drivers without a taxi license, mandate background checks and require insurance provided by the company.
Despite the various regulation battles, Waters said that the DCTC has not changed its rates since the rise of Uber and that the commission was uninvolved in the rates set by the company.
“We don’t engage in regulating in any digital dispatch rates,” Waters said. “It’s a competitive marketplace.”
Waters stressed the need for more regulations on these ride-sharing companies, specifically the need for an inventory of drivers to keep better tabs on the companies,
“We’re hopeful that we’re going to a resolution soon once the city council is back in session that will allow us to enforce against illegal street hails,” he said.”These digital dispatch services—their vehicles should not engage in street hails. They can be booked by electronic purposes, and you know, to help enforce against the hails, we want to have an inventory of who’s driving for these companies.”