Why Uber Will Win Its Political Fights: Data on Congressional Use of the App

Readers know that I’m a big fan of Uber, the on-demand car service.

You download an app to your phone, request a pickup with the press of a button. You watch your vehicle on a map as it drives to you and shows you how many minutes away the car is. You can stay inside at home or at a restaurant until it shows up. Your payment details are on file, so when the trip is over you just get out and you’re emailed a receipt.

There are several options in different markets — like black cars, UberX which is individuals with their own cars that drive you, and in some cities even UberTaxi where you’re just requesting a cab through the app.

New customers get a free ride up to $30 in value when referred by an existing member who also gets a free ride. $30 takes me to the airport, or it’s about four short UberX trips where I live.

I’m not the only one that finds it really convenient, and cost-effective (UberX is generally less expensive than a cab and in my opinion more reliable and accountable — see Why Taxis Suck and What You Can Do About It).

Congress does, too.

Hamilton Place Strategies analyzed congressional campaign spending and looked at transportation expenses under $100. Uber has quickly become the majority of this spending, outpacing cabs. (Interestingly, Lyft barely measures.)

The Washington Post covers this and describes another finding — that the introduction of Uber has led to more rides being taken, but without an increasing cost per ride — and speculates,

Maybe more interns cuing up Uber cars so they don’t have to chauffeur officials around themselves?

Federal officials aren’t the ones at the forefront of regulatory battles over Uber — localities and airport authorities are. But with federal legislators and their staffs heavily adopting the technology, don’t expect it to lose too many political battles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I agree with Lantean and I’ve made my feelings well known (i.e. I’d assume you were an investor or paid shill if you hadn’t said otherwise). Anyway, I recommend sticking to your area of expertise, which last I checked wasn’t politics. At least where I live (CA) Uber won’t ever be a Federal issue – there is nothing interstate about Uber in Los Angeles.

    Put another way, for along time everyone in Washington loved the Blackberry. That ended well, right? Or maybe the time everyone in WA was opposed to gay marriage? Of course the service is good – that’s different than being legal and/or playing by the rules.

  2. I found this data interesting. I observed in the post that regulatory battles over Uber have been at the local level. But the adoption of Uber by policymakers can also be a powerful thing.

  3. @Lantean I get that you don’t like Uber, or posts about Uber, I disclose that you can use my referral link or not or post your own. Still, increasingly sounding like a personal issue to me.. 🙂

  4. Earlier this year I attended a Georgetown ball for thousands of people held at a massive hall next to the train station. The taxi line just outside the hall was very official, very long, and had very few taxis.

    I suggested to my wife that we walk a couple of blocks away and grab an Uber ride. She was in heels and initially resisted but after a while in the taxi line it was apparent that we needed an alternative.

    It wasn’t immediate, but the ride did arrive about 10-15 minutes after I hailed the driver, and there’s no question that was faster than the taxi line.

    So from my perspective, although there are a lot of cabs in DC, Uber is a really nice option, especially at peak times when you can’t hail a taxi to save your life.

  5. I have never taken Uber and after reading about how Uber GOUGED people at Halloween with as high as 9x pricing I never will.

    Funny thing was I had previously opened an account with them and it took me FOUR (yes, 4) requests to get them to shut it down. The email exchange got to be quite amusing. Specifically when they told me the cancellation process was not reversible and I told them that I was OverJoyed by this prospect.

    It was then turned over to a Community Manager and Senior Rep (Andy) who needed to look at my account. This was not so amusing and caused me to send my 4th request which was Finally honored.

    I personally don’t like to support companies that take advantage of people like this. IMO there is such a thing as good revenue and bad revenue – bad revenue is the $362 cab fare charge that the lady then turned to crowdfunding to pay rent.

  6. Glad you like Uber, but I hear they need another Billion of cash to stay alive. Oops, the printing press has been shutdown…

    …Uber is finished. And good riddance to it.

  7. To @Adam: It’s often been said (and I know it’s true): One should never see how either laws or sausages are made.

  8. So uber is the same thing as getting in a fake taxi in a foreign country were they hold your bags hostage till you pay a high price. Let’s get into a under insured child molesters car and drive of into the dark to be raped and killed good travel advice

  9. @tomri, have you even used uber? It’s 100 times not like a fake taxi in a foreign country. It’s 100% transparent on it’s costs. During peaks, it tells you how much more you you’ll need to pay and you decide if you want to take it. The charges don’t change after you start the ride. You know exactly what you’re getting into and make a choice. When we left a concert once, and surge pricing was in effect, we just went to a bar and waited it out until the high demand went down. If we wanted to, we could have just accepted the higher price and gotten home earlier. Or we could have called a cab and probably waited an hour or so until they were available. It puts the choice into the consumer’s hands.

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