Uber may be cheaper, faster, but it's not regulated for safety - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Uber may be cheaper, faster, but it's not regulated for safety

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)

There are a number of services available to get people from here to there.

Depending on chosen services like Uber and a taxi, one is faster and cheaper than the other. Safety, however, may be a different story.

Uber has been in Connecticut for only a couple of years. Customers can easily use their phones to get one.

On the other hand, the taxi is a reliable standard which has been around for decades.

Eyewitness News performed a test on each going to and from the same destination.

Starting at Farm's Village Road in Rocky Hill at lunch time, the goal was to get to the Cheesecake Factory in West Hartford's Blue Back Square.

Uber was called first.

The smartphone showed exactly how far away the driver was. The driver arrived exactly as expected.

Eyewitness News then dialed a cab from the Yellow Cab Company of Connecticut.

Its app had an error message, so a phone call had to be made to order the service.

The cab eventually arrived 24 minutes later.

Eyewitness News asked people in West Hartford which service they thought was cheaper.

"I think the Uber was probably cheaper than a taxi," said Megha Jain, an Uber user.

Jain was right. The Uber ride was $24.69. The taxi was $45.31.

The taxi also took longer to arrive.

The Uber arrived in only 7 minutes, compared to the taxi's 24. That's not counting the time spent on the phone to order the cab with an operator.

As far as which service people are more likely to use, Eyewitness News's informal spring survey was unanimous.

"I love Uber. I'm definitely always relying on my Uber," Jain said. "I just think it is convenient. It's on your cell phone through an app and it's quick."

"It's easier and more simpler with the app," said Sandy Wells, an Uber user.

Connecticut has more than 4,000 Uber drivers. It attributes its price as a big reason for its success.

"It's cheaper, again the trip could cost me from our house to work $13 with the Yellow Cab," said Rich Sanchez of Hartford. "Nine dollars with the Uber."

As far as regulation goes, the Department of Transportation overseas taxis. The DOT has no authority over Uber.

The DOT requires taxi drivers to have a commercial driver's license. Uber drivers have personal driver's licenses.

The DOT also requires taxis to carry insurance covering passengers. Uber drivers use their personal insurance; however, it claims it offers additional insurance.

Taxi meter rates are set at public hearings where Uber fares aren't regulated at all. Uber can raise prices during peak times, like when it rains.

The DOT requires taxi drivers to have medical certificates stating they are healthy to drive. Uber, not so much.

Marco Henry is president of the Yellow Cab Company. He described having to let go one of his taxi drivers because the driver had diabetes. The driver blacked out behind the wheel, which resulted in three minor crashes.

"We tell him that unless he was going to get a certificate from the doctor, that if he's sick and drives, we cannot let him drive like this," Henry said. "He could not get it. Today he drives for Uber."

The DOT also requires and FBI fingerprint to check on taxi drivers. Uber does less extensive background checks.

Still, customers seem unfazed.

"I think that's a risk that people generally are willing to take because the immediate savings are so great and the potential costs are much less likely to occur," said Michael Robbins of Hartford.

Cab drivers said they'll continue to fight for better regulation of Uber cars in Connecticut. It may be some time before guidelines will be passed.

More and more taxi companies said they are trying to develop smartphone apps and do not use credit card machines in their cars.

However, when it comes to convenience and price, Uber appears to be winning that race.

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