Uber Made Me Call My Mom

A month or so ago, I had dinner with a group of entrepreneurs at the Goldman Internet Conference in Vegas.  Among them was Travis Kalanick, the colorful and talented Founder/CEO of Uber.  Travis is a man on a mission to revolutionize how we get around, as I’m sure you’re all well aware.  I’ve been a customer from the early days of Uber Seattle, but I really only used it as a Taxi replacement – once a week on a Saturday night out and the occasional trip to the airport.

At dinner, Travis tried to convince me that Uber was changing home values in certain neighborhoods based on ease of Uber access.  I need to speak with Zillow’s Chief Economist, Dr. Stan Humphries, about using Uber availability as an input into the Zestimate algorithm, but I’m a little dubious.

That said, Travis did convince me to get rid of my car.

For the 3rd week of December, I hid my keys and used nothing but Uber.  Everywhere.  To and from work.  To pick the kids up from basketball practice.  Last minute Christmas shopping.  Out to dinner.  The Seahawks game.  Everywhere.

Uber Driver Eric and me

Uber driver, Erick, and me at my garage tagged by street artist, Reach

A few observations:

  • I walked more.  Totally unexpected.  Working downtown, there are always errands to run after work.  It’s way easier to walk out of my building to Pike Place Market to pick up the smoked salmon, than it is to drive and deal with parking.  I enjoy walking, but I don’t usually have time to walk the whole 3 miles to my Madison Park home.  With Uber, I can walk 1 mile through the city, make a stop or 2 along the way, and then call in the air strike, getting picked up in stride. Loved it.
  • I saved time.  I’m sure Travis has data on this, but I’ll bet 1/3rd of my transport time when “driving” is actually spent parking.  My mean time from my office desk seat to the back seat of an Uber driving away from my building was 2 minutes.  In my own car, this time is 9 minutes.  I have to take another elevator down to sub-level 3.  I have to wait in line to get out of my garage as the policeman waves a line of commuters coming out of the garage into traffic.  Time savings for city parking when going out to dinner or running errands is huge, as well.  Big win.
  • I spent more money.  I think.  My Uber bill for the week totaled $410.  If I had a $110k Mercedes S class, then Uber would be cheaper when taking depreciation into consideration.  However, I have a 2013 Ford Mustang GT.  It’s a 5.0L tricked out California Special Edition, but even with all the bells and whistles, it’s a Ford, and only cost me $42k.  So, if I depreciate generously at $1k per month, plus gas,  plus $300/mo in parking, Uber is still a bit more costly.  Insurance and maintenance could push it over the line. Anyway, the expense is not a barrier.  Close enough.
  • I got more done.  There are pros and cons to this one, but I was able to work in the back seat of my Uber.  And read the paper.  It was pretty nice.
  • I talked to my Mom more.  It’s way easier to have a real phone conversation in the car when you’re riding.  My mom was happy.  Me, too.
  • I sent an Uber to pick up my son.  😐  He’s 14 and I tracked his progress like the NSA tracks Angela Merkel, but I still don’t think we’re supposed to use Uber this way.  Regardless, it was awesome.
  • I sneezed more.  I have a really sensitive nose.  At my request, no one in my family wears perfume.  No smelly hand creams, etc.  I get sneezy.  I get headaches.  I think these tree shaped air fresheners are a plague on the planet, and for whatever reason, about 1/3rd of Uber drivers think they need 3 to 5 of these evil smell trees in their cars.  I give lower ratings on these cars, and I implore Travis here to make modest use of air fresheners an Uber policy going forward.

Am I going to get rid of my Mustang?  Probably not.  I love to drive and I don’t really have to make this tradeoff from an expense perspective.

But I will tell you this: I do now feel Uber is my own personal driver, and I’d guess 50% of my car trips are now Uber rides.

Travis conceived of and is leading nothing short of a transportation revolution.  Well done.

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  • mhaseck

    Thanks for the share Rich, hopefully Uber will make it all the way to rural Burlington VT. We have buses here which are tied to routes, but it would be nice to get more done while riding then dealing with traffic. I love the advantage to walk into shops and stores without having to go all the way back to get the car, when weather permits I’m on my bicycle.

  • Chris Speicher

    Thanks for the dissertation; seriously. I have always wondered and now I know.

    • Rich Barton

      Try it and let me know, Chris.

      • Chris Speicher

        Will do. Superbowl Sunday might be the perfect opportunity.

  • Joe Dahleen

    Good stuff Rich and it makes Mom happier too – Bonus ride. One thing you didn’t talk about is all the time it takes in a taxi to pay the piper. That’s a real pain in butt. Uber has really made the payment process truly enjoyable. I am sure the drivers love it and it allows them to focus on guest.

    • Rich Barton

      True, Joe. Relative to a cab, Uber feels “free” because you never have to reach for you wallet or stress about the right tip, etc.

    • Guest

      The Uber driver I talked with last night loves it because he doesn’t have to worry about being robbed for any cash he might be carrying.

      • Rich Barton

        RIght. It’s also pretty hard to be anonymous on Uber.

  • If any city needs Uber, it’s Seattle. This city is cutting back on bus service, the light rail is as good as the monorail (it goes nowhere) and the taxi service is pathetic. Bring on Uber and Lyft and anyone else!