ÜBER FAIL

As Cincinnatians gathered at The Mercantile Library to discuss issues at the Enquirer's transit forum, I was having my own educational experience by using car-free options to get around town. The plan was simple: I needed to get from Downtown to Mount Adams, a short journey of 1.5 miles which is five minutes away by car. I chose to take public transit for convenience and safety. I was traveling to and from my destination alone after dark and the bus stop was closer to the venue than the parking lot. I also didn't want to deal with navigating Mount Adams's winding narrow streets and limited parking options.

Bus or taxi are the only public transit options in the city (if you loosely consider a cab "public transit"), but recently the city began using Uber, a rideshare program that uses a mobile app to connect passengers with the company's drivers-for-hire. It's basically a high-tech way to order yourself a Lincoln Towncar, BMW or any other variety of vehicle to take you from A-to-B at prices competitive to taxis. Since the service is new to Cincinnati, Uber is offering two weeks of free rides to anyone who orders a driver. At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to try it out. The app worked great until it told me there were no Uber cars available, despite seeing three car icons within two blocks of my origin. I tried again a few minutes later; the next available was 20+ minutes away, not accounting for traffic signals, which would cut my arrival at the venue too close. Fortunately, I was able to catch the trusty ol' METRO Bus #1 for Fun, which dropped me off right at the building's entrance.





The challenge would be getting back Downtown. I was in Mount Adams to see a show at Playhouse In The Park. While it is surrounded by three METRO bus stops, transit service isn't available after 8:00pm. That's no good since the theatre lets out around 11:00pm. Route #1 service is extended on Saturday evenings with the last inbound bus departing at 10:52pm. Better, but still useless if you're at a show. Why an area would have three bus stops but no service during the prime business hours was perplexing, but so is everything transit related in Cincinnati. I shrugged and made alternate plans for my return journey Downtown.

As the actors took their final bow, I pulled up the Uber app to request a car. Again, the app showed icons of several cars-for-hire, but when I went to book, none of the UberBlack or UberX cars were available. I tried again as the audience slowly sauntered into the lobby, and again after I spent some time chatting with a friend. I walked out of Playhouse and over to the Route #1 bus stop, where I had been dropped off. One final time, I searched for an Uber car and none were available. What's the point in having a "try it and love it" free two week trial period for taxi alternatives if I can't request a ride in a span of 30 minutes?

Feeling stranded, I located the next closest active bus stop. It was a long walk down to the foot of Mount Adams hill, getting picked up in Walnut Hills on Gilbert Avenue by Route #11. Yep, I had to walk into a different neighborhood to find bus service. Fortunately, I didn't have too long of a wait for the bus, but taking the steep, desolate, dimly lit sidewalks to catch it voids my reason of using public transit for safety.

Efforts are underway to increase transit options in Cincinnati, whether through construction of the streetcar, new METRO bus hubs in Uptown and Western Hills, or new peer-to-peer transport such as Uber or Lyft. Yet, our city still has a far ways to go in creating viable accessible transportation if traveling 1.5 miles poses a challenge.

3 comments:

  1. I think once the free rides are over cars will be easier to find. I was lucky enough to get a car once, all the other times there were none to be found.

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    1. True. Definitely would expect to run into a lack of cars on a weekend, but I had it happen off-peak hours during the middle of the week. :/

      Glad to hear your experience was better! Looked like you had a great time rolling up to Music Hall. :)

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  2. As an UberX driver I have to say on Friday and Saturday nights for the last 2 weeks I was busy non-stop. I did go 'on-line during the week and in 2 days had only 2 requests, despite having a high rating from the over 55 people I have driven during the 3 weekend nights I drove. It is a question of supply of drivers during the start-up phase. For riders safety it takes Uber time to do the background checks of prospective drivers that a rider should feel safe riding in a car with so it is something I'd suggest people try again as when there are enough drivers it should beat all the other choices. I have used it myself in NY where there are lots of other choices and I prefer its convenience and economics.

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