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In the absence of cheaper options, students turn to Uber

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Ever since Uber rolled out its ridesharing service in June 2010, its black sedans have increasingly become the ride of choice for Stanford students on the go. With its growing presence on college campuses this year, Uber  the mobile app that whisks people away to their chosen destinations at the press of a button  is now transforming the way Stanford students get from A to B.

While many undergraduates in the past have opted for ZipCar, SuperShuttle, Caltrain or Bart to get around the Bay Area, Tyler Yusuf ’18 turned to UberX as his first mode of transportation upon arrival.

“I used Uber to get from the airport to campus and it was great,” said Yusuf, who used the popular coupon that gives new riders $30 off their first ride.  “I would definitely recommend it because UberX is usually cheaper than a cab.”

The process is simple and straightforward: new users download the Uber app on their phone, enter their credit card information, drop a pin to set their location and a nearby certified driver arrives within minutes. The app even provides a complete profile of the driver, tracks their location via GPS and allows the rider to rate their experience afterwards.

The caveat, however, is its surge pricing system which fluctuates depending on the current supply and demand. An Uber ride to downtown Palo Alto generally costs between $7 to $9, but during busy peak hours and weekend nights, the price can increase rapidly.

Leo Leal ’15 argues that such a dynamic pricing scheme is not ideal for budget-conscious students. He has used the app for the past year and a half for various short trips between Stanford and Palo Alto and within the city of San Francisco, but he doesn’t agree that Uber is useful for longer distances.

“It’s positive in how the service works but I don’t like the pricing,” Leal said. “The surge pricing is sometimes arbitrary … The company takes advantage of the need at the point. There’s a difference between a $20 ride and a $25 ride; young people use it.”

Still, Uber’s competitive pricing beats out ZipCar’s $8 hourly rate  which also requires an annual $50 membership fee  and the more expensive taxis that often hang around the Palo Alto Caltrain station. As Alexis Garduno ’15 explains, it has allowed students to travel farther and cheaper, bringing them to previously lesser known areas surrounding Stanford’s campus and greater San Francisco.

“Uber has my back and doesn’t make me want to cry after seeing the bill,” said Alexis Garduno ’15. “I’m 21 and use Uber to get home after a night out. I use Uber when I’m in a pickle and need a way to get somewhere fast and at a low cost.”

According to Garduno, her favorite Uber experience came when she traveled to San Francisco for a day trip. Aiming to catch a Caltrain and pressed for time, she let her driver know, who then hastily caught all the lights for her.

“I got there five minutes before the train took off and made it back to Stanford in time for work,” she added.

Likewise, Kuno Choi ’17 was also impressed with Uber when he first signed up this month. He hails from Seoul, South Korea, where public transportation is “extensive and cheap.” Yet Uber helped overturn his bias that American public transportation was “expensive, slow and wedded to archaic infrastructure” in the absence of a personal car.

For Brian Ombonga ’15, Uber even came to his need thousands of miles away from campus when he studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa last year.

“UberX launched while I was there, and they had a great promotion which I took part in,” said Ombonga, who hopes to continue using the ridesharing service in the future. “I found that using UberX was easier in Cape Town than using a regular taxi … [UberX] fits a nice medium for me because I think it can be more convenient than public transport, but cheaper than a regular taxi.”

 

Contact Leslie Nguyen-Okwu at leslie.nguyen-okwu ‘at’ stanford.edu.