Sometimes it can be an expensive and frustrating endeavor to get around in New York City, but a new app released this month claims to use deep data analysis to show users whether their trip would be cheaper with a ride from Uber, or from hailing a regular yellow taxi.
Here's how it works: the free app, OpenStreetCab, uses your phone's location and the address of your destination and runs it against data the researchers examined, such as "millions of records of taxi mobility data" and "historic and real time data on fairs[sic]," to tell you whether to go with hailing a cab, or to take an UberX car, the company's cheapest service.
A team of computer scientists from the University of Cambridge and Belgium’s University of Nanmur mined a huge amount of data on every NYC taxi fare in 2013 and compared those numbers against averages of Uber's own fare estimates for the trips and found that Uber is typically more expensive than a taxi when the fare for the ride is less than $35, according to a report by the MIT Technology Review. In other words, it's likely cheaper to take a taxi than an UberX car if you're not going very far, but Uber might be a better deal if you're planning to go farther -- like between city boroughs.
One thing to note, though, is that the researchers didn't consider Uber's surge pricing, which often multiplies the standard rates for trips due to high demand. But the team argues it still provides a useful comparison of the two services, according to the report. Just last summer, Uber lowered the fare for its UberX service in NYC and claimed it was cheaper than taking a taxi.
We tried the app using hypothetical trips from our offices in the 500 block of Broadway in SoHo. When we set our destination as a restaurant almost six miles away on the Upper West Side, OpenStreetCab suggested Uber, and for a shorter trip (about 2 miles) to Madison Square Park, the app recommended a taxi. The app doesn't show the estimated fare for either choice, though.
Basically, you might want to just suffer the pain of waiting for a taxi if you want to save some money, but then again, Uber might be increasingly hard to resist now that there are more Uber vehicles roaming the city than there are yellow taxis, according to a report by the New York Post.
Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and has a sort of instinctual intuition on this thanks to a chronic cab-taking problem he once had. Send news tips to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.