A month or so ago, I had dinner with a group of entrepreneurs at the Goldman Internet Conference in Vegas. Among them was Travis Kalanick, the colorful and talented founder and CEO of Uber. Travis is a man on a mission to revolutionize how we get around, as I’m sure you’re all well aware. I’ve been a customer from the early days of Uber Seattle, but I really only used it as a taxi replacement – once a week on a Saturday night out and the occasional trip to the airport.
At dinner, Travis tried to convince me that Uber was changing home values in certain neighborhoods based on ease of Uber access. (I need to speak with Zillow’s Chief Economist, Dr. Stan Humphries, about using Uber availability as an input into the Zestimate algorithm, but I’m a little dubious).
That said, Travis did convince me to get rid of my car.
For the third week of December, I hid my keys and used nothing but Uber. Everywhere. To and from work. To pick the kids up from basketball practice. Last minute Christmas shopping. Out to dinner. The Seahawks game. Everywhere.
A few observations:
- I walked more. Totally unexpected. Working downtown, there are always errands to run after work. It’s way easier to walk out of my building to Pike Place Market to pick up the smoked salmon, than it is to drive and deal with parking. I enjoy walking, but I don’t usually have time to walk the whole three miles to my Madison Park home. With Uber, I can walk one mile through the city, make a stop or two along the way, and then call in the air strike, getting picked up in stride. Loved it.
- I saved time. I’m sure Travis has data on this, but I’ll bet one-third of my transport time when “driving” is actually spent parking. My mean time from my office desk seat to the back seat of an Uber driving away from my building was two minutes. In my own car, this time is nine minutes. I have to take another elevator down to sub-level three. I have to wait in line to get out of my garage as the policeman waves a line of commuters coming out of the garage into traffic. Time savings for city parking when going out to dinner or running errands is huge, as well. Big win.
- I spent more money. I think. My Uber bill for the week totaled $410. If I had a $110,000 Mercedes S class, then Uber would be cheaper when taking depreciation into consideration. However, I have a 2013 Ford Mustang GT. It’s a 5.0L tricked out California Special Edition, but even with all the bells and whistles, it’s a Ford, and only cost me $42,000. So, if I depreciate generously at $1,000 per month, plus gas, plus $300 per month in parking, Uber is still a bit more costly. Insurance and maintenance could push it over the line. Anyway, the expense is not a barrier. Close enough.
- I got more done. There are pros and cons to this one, but I was able to work in the back seat of my Uber. And read the paper. It was pretty nice.
- I talked to my Mom more. It’s way easier to have a real phone conversation in the car when you’re riding. My mom was happy. Me, too.
- I sent an Uber to pick up my son. :-| He’s 14 and I tracked his progress like the NSA tracks Angela Merkel, but I still don’t think we’re supposed to use Uber this way. Regardless, it was awesome.
- I sneezed more. I have a really sensitive nose. At my request, no one in my family wears perfume. No smelly hand creams, etc. I get sneezy. I get headaches. I think these tree shaped air fresheners are a plague on the planet, and for whatever reason, about one-third of Uber drivers think they need three to five of these evil smell trees in their cars. I give lower ratings on these cars, and I implore Travis here to make modest use of air fresheners an Uber policy going forward.
Am I going to get rid of my Mustang? Probably not. I love to drive and I don’t really have to make this tradeoff from an expense perspective.
But I will tell you this: I do now feel Uber is my own personal driver, and I’d guess 50 percent of my car trips are now Uber rides.
Travis conceived of and is leading nothing short of a transportation revolution. Well done.