- Filthy car. The taxi seemed to be a newer model car from the outside, but once inside, the seat was dirty, uncomfortable and the vinyl was cracked. I should have left the taxi immediately, but didn't - my bad. Part of this in my opinion is that taxi drivers lease the cars and so have no incentive to care for the car.
- Bad smell. Once we were on our way, I noticed a horrible smell coming from the front of the taxi - stale fast food. It was horrible and I had to roll down both back seat windows so I could breath.
- Reckless driving. The taxi driver drove recklessly - speeding, swerving and in my view completely disregarding my comfort and safety.
- Mechanical problems. The taxi made all sorts of mechanical noises - some from the engine and some from the brakes - which made me nervous about the safety of the vehicle. Again, I believe this is partly due to taxis being leased by drivers and so the drivers have no incentive to care for the car.
- Surly driver. The driver of the taxi was not friendly and there was little conversation as I was concentrating on not throwing up from the horrible smell and reckless driving.
- Newer and clean cars. Uber requires cars to be newer models and, because the cars are owned by the drivers (see below), they are clean and well cared for.
- No mechanical problems. I have not had any Uber X that had mechanical problems or noise. I believe this is due to (1) they typically own the cars, (2) they are newer models, and (3) I understand that Uber has periodic inspections of the cars to ensure they are safe to drive.
- Drivers typically own their cars. This is an important point. Because they typically own the cars, Uber drivers have an incentive to keep them in good mechanical order, clean and safe.
- Friendly drivers. I typically talk to drivers in Uber X about their experiences, and I have found most Uber X drivers to be nice and friendly. While I have had many friendly taxi drivers, I have had a few unfriendly ones as well.
- Lower cost. I have found Uber X to be competitive with taxis and in some cases less expensive (like going to the airport). However, this is not the case when surge pricing (which I dislike) is in effect.
The Bottom Line:
I am embarrassed by the taxi system in San Francisco. I travel a lot internationally, and in my experience San Francisco has one of the worst taxi systems in the world. How can such a wealthy and advanced city like San Francisco have such a terrible taxi system is beyond me. When I hear that people are going to visit San Francisco, I urge them to download the Uber app and avoid taxis altogether. I am very glad that Uber is disrupting the taxi industry - it needs it - and perhaps the taxi industry will wake up and put a better product on the road.
I'm sure I will use taxis in the city in the future, and I hope to report that the service is improving, but I'm not holding my breath.