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Uber vs. Lyft vs. taxis: Comparing ride-hailing options in Denver

Are all cab rides created equal? Not in Denver. As described in our current cover story, "Street Fight -- Are Denver Cab Companies Ready for an Uber Bumpy Ride?," unique state rules mean no two Denver taxi companies are alike in how they operate and what they charge riders. Add to that various power struggles over control of the lucrative metro taxi market, plus the recent incursion of smart phone-based car-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, and you have a lot to consider before hailing a ride. Keep reading for a breakdown of your options.

Yellow Cab, as seen by denveryellowcab.com.
Yellow Cab, as seen by denveryellowcab.com.

Yellow Cab Launched: 1924 Fleet size: 300 cabs Color scheme: Yellow Phone number: 303-777-7777 Smart phone app: Taxi Magic Meter rate: $2.50 base fare plus $2.25 per additional mile Driver lease rate: In 2012, most drivers paid Yellow Cab $460 a week Feel-good story: One of the oldest Yellow Cab operations in the country, Yellow Cab was once a driver-owned co-op called Yellow Cab Cooperative Association. Not-so-feel-good story: Yellow Cab is now owned by the multinational transportation firm Veolia Transportation. In 2012, the company was ordered to pay more than a million dollars as part of a legal arbitration with drivers that involved allegations of discrimination, verbal abuse and physical assault.

Metro Taxi Launched: 1985 in its current permutation Fleet size: 492 cabs Color scheme: White, with either red or green trim Phone number: 303-333-3333 Smart phone app: Denver Taxi App Meter rate: $2.60 base fare plus $2.25 per additional mile Driver lease rate: In 2012, most drivers paid Metro Taxi $540 a week Feel-good story: Metro Taxi owner Robert McBride, the son of poor Irish immigrants, worked his way up from his start as a limo driver, and was recently president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association. Not-so-feel-good story: McBride is aiming to sell his company to the owner of Yellow Cab, which could result in an international corporation controlling more than 60 percent of the Denver taxi market.

Freedom Cab Launched: 1995 Fleet size: 300 cabs Color scheme: Purple Phone number: 303-444-4444 Smart phone app: None Meter rate: $2 base fare plus $2 per additional mile Driver lease rate: Most drivers pay Freedom $300 a week Feel-good story: When Freedom launched, it was the first completely new Denver cab company allowed to launch in nearly fifty years. The company prides itself on its low meter and driver lease rates. Not-so-feel-good story: Competitors sometimes accuse Freedom taxis of being shabby. The company does not have a computerized central-dispatch system, just two-way radios.

Union Taxi Cooperative Launched: 2009 Fleet size: 150 cabs Color scheme: Orange, green and white Phone number: 303.922.2222. Smart phone app: Union Taxi Cooperative Meter rate: $2.25 base fare plus $2 per additional mile Driver lease rate: As a co-op, drivers own the company; they pay $175 a week in membership dues Feel-good story: Union faced strong opposition when it applied to launch in 2008, with Yellow, Metro and several politicians arguing it would hurt the taxi industry. Instead, a 2012 state report found the local taxi market had thrived when Union had begun service three years earlier. Not-so-feel-good story: Unclear, but if you ask enough competing taxi drivers, you'll surely find one.

Mile High Cab

Launched: Spring 2014 (proposed) Fleet size: 150 cabs Color scheme: TBD Phone number: TBD Smart phone app: TBD Meter rate: TBD Driver lease rate: As a co-op, drivers own the company; membership dues are not known Feel-good story: After Colorado's Public Utility Commission rejected their 2008 attempt to start a cab company, Mile High's founders took the matter to court -- and the Colorado Supreme Court found in their favor. Thanks to a final green light by the Public Utility Commission several weeks ago, Mile High plans to hit the streets later this spring, after five years of effort. Not-so-feel-good story: Mile High's founders have clashed over control of the operation, leading to several of them being forced out of the company and taking the matter to court. Keep reading for the rates from Uber and Lyft.

 

Uber, as seen by uber.com.EXPAND
Uber, as seen by uber.com.

Uber Launched in Denver: August 2012 Fleet size: Several hundred Color scheme: Variable Phone number: None Smart phone app: Uber Meter rate: $2.14 base fare plus $0.19 per minute and $1.57 per mile for uberX rides; $7 base fare plus $0.30 per minute and 3.05 per mile for UberBLACK rides. Rates are subject to periodic "price surges" when demand outpaces supply. Driver lease rate: Uber receives 20 percent of gross earnings Feel-good story: Uber, a San Francisco-based smartphone app company, expanded to Denver in 2012 with its UberBLACK service, which allows people to book rides with licensed limousines and town cars through their phones. At last count, Uber was operating in eighty-plus cities in 31 countries worldwide, with a new market launching roughly every six days. Not-so-feel-good story: Uber has faced complaints about its frustrating "price surge" tactics, questionable tipping policy and the aggressive way it's attacked its competition. Recently an Uber driver struck and killed a young girl in San Francisco in between picking up a ride, leading to questions about who's liable when there are no passengers in an Uber car: the driver or the company.

Lyft Launched in Denver: September 2013 Fleet size: Unknown Color scheme: Variable; giant pink mustaches affixed to cars' front grill Phone number: None Smart phone app: Lyft Meter rate: Passengers give donations; the Lyft app recommends appropriate payment for each ride. Rates are subject to periodic "Prime Time" increases when demand outpaces supply. Driver lease rate: Lyft receives 20 percent of gross earnings Feel-good story: Lyft brought a new kind of transportation service to Denver, one that allowed drivers to use their personal cars for work. Not long after, Uber brought its own "ridesharing" service to Denver, called uberX. Not-so-feel-good story: Lyft's service is very similar to Uber's, but without all the cultural cachet. In other words, it's like the Zune to Uber's iPhone. From our archives: "Denver Taxicab test: Have what it takes to drive the city's mean streets?"


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