Why D.C. Needs Uber

The car service is a cheap way to get to your destination, avoiding the delay-prone Metro system.

By SHARE
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Riders ar shown at the D.C. Metro Center, Monday, April 5, 2004, in Washington. Metro is one of the region's public transit agencies examing security with the possibilty of random passenger inspections.

This weekend, I had plans to meet some friends for brunch in Dupont Circle. As a car-less twenty-something living in the major metropolis of Washington, D.C., I planned to take public transportation. The distance, door-to-door, from my apartment to the restaurant was only about three and a half miles; still, the city's subway system is notoriously slow on Saturdays and Sundays, so I allowed myself nearly an hour to get there.

Upon arrival at my local Metro station, I found the next train heading downtown was 19 minutes away. Irritating, but at least I had my trusty smartphone to keep me occupied. I browsed around Twitter, using the time to catch up on the news, and eventually my ride appeared.

Unfortunately for me, a stop or so later the conductor was forced to offload the entire train due to a "mechanical" problem. Thus began another wait on a dim concrete platform, while men in neon vests checked every train door to be sure it would close properly.

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Finally, we were allowed back on, and soon thereafter I made it to my transfer point. In what fleetingly appeared to be my first stroke of luck of the morning, I saw that a train in the correct direction was just minutes away. I was just beginning to think I might make it to breakfast on time when I realized the approaching train would be terminating one stop short of where I was headed. To get to Dupont, I would either need to wait 11 minutes for the next train, or else take this one and then hoof it the last six blocks. I opted for the latter, ultimately staggering through the door of my destination, windswept and sweaty, a cool 70 minutes after I'd left home.

Saturday night I found myself in the hopping but remote enclave of Adams Morgan, at a showcase for local performers. I did not fancy a multi-hour commute home, so instead of attempting it, I used my phone to request a ride from Uber X, a lower-cost spin-off of the popular car service Uber.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Because I was seeking transportation during a period of heavy demand, the app informed me my trip would cost one-and-a-half times the normal fare. Worth it, I instantly determined, and accepted the terms of the transaction. Within five minutes, a driver in a spotless Toyota Corolla pulled up outside the bar where I was saying my goodbyes. He whisked me through the city and across the river and deposited me in front of my building – all for an eminently reasonable cost, even considering the peak-hour mark-up.

It was a mutually beneficial exchange in which I was happy to pay the asking price for a service I knew would save me much time and great frustration — not to mention spare me from the always pleasant experience of using public transportation as a single young woman late at night. Yet despite the company's legions of satisfied customers, D.C.'s Taxicab Commission has repeatedly sought to force Uber out of business.

It's enough to make you wonder whom the government is really there to protect.

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