After making my request, a few cab companies simply answered "Ok" before hanging up. I called them back to get an ETA, and their dispatchers would give me answers like "30 to 40 minutes" or "I don't know".
I wasn't out in the boonies or anything. I was downtown.
Chicago did not have this, and when Uber offered UberTaxi it really was the best of both worlds, for a small surcharge on the normal cab fare.
Cab companies refusal to acknowledge this means they deserve to die. The economics are there, an app is undeniably cheaper, at some point, than a call center, and fundamentally whatever prices Americans pay to cab companies is clearly enough to sustain them, so it should in theory be enough to sustain an Uber-like company.
And let's not even get into the conversation about servicing more rural areas, where ZERO cab companies exist, but Uber drivers do. That is a net value add to those communities, no denying.
I used a small family taxi company. I had to book in advance, or be prepared for a short wait, but they understood my father in law needed some extra time and understood his requirements. Ubers on the other hand are awful with disabled people in my experience.
Luckily the excellent public transport makes up for it. But there are still many scenarios where Uber is a welcome addition.
A 10 min drive can easily cost you $40 - and lots of people do take the taxi when going out / downtown during weekends. Even more so when they're heading back home.
We do have public transportation, like night busses that drive every 30 / 60 mins, and through the most populated routes.
But still, we do have pirate / illegal taxis. Basically young adults that will drive you wherever for half the price what a taxi would take.
But yeah, it feels that we simply use taxis a lot less over here. It's mostly traveling people, older folks that aren't mobile enough, and similar.. and of course the hordes of people going to and from downtown during weekends.
People are very good at using public transportation.
The drivers were always nice and friendly. Their vehicles were clean. They arrived on time and got me to work when otherwise I would have been biking or walking for hours.
Those guys earn their money. I tipped them well. I wouldn't Uber to work forever because it is costly, but I absolutely loved ubering while my car was in the shop.
Uber solves that.
I live in Queens in a great neighborhood and cabs have "forgot" how to get here more than once. They don't like it because they have a lower chance of a return fare.
At least in Germany, my standard way of getting a cab (wherever I want) was calling one of the dispatch centres.
Taxi-hailing apps made this slightly more convenient, and displaying the cab's route to you removed some stress, but it didn't fundamentally alter the service.
And Uber really doesn't add any value except for undercutting prices by subsidising the rides via investors and shovelling risk etc. onto the drivers.
I think about 99.9% of my taxi use has been call-ahead, often a day before ("I need a cab to the airport at 9am tomorrow").