Here's when using Uber is cheaper than hailing a yellow taxi

Last summer, Uber cut its prices in New York City and said it was cheaper to take an UberX than a yellow cab.

Now, a group of scientists say they have figured out when it’s cheaper to take Uber, and when it makes more sense to just hail a cab in New York City.

Cecilia Mascolo at the UK’s University of Cambridge and her colleagues compared data for UberX rides with information about the costs of yellow taxi rides, the MIT Technology Review reports.

The researchers hope that their findings help consumers make informed choices about taking an Uber versus taking a cab.

The researchers’ findings, which are available here (although the website seems to be down currently), covers hundreds of millions of rides. Using information they received under the Freedom of Information Act, the researchers used the start and end coordinates of every yellow taxi trip in New York City in 2013, and used Uber’s system to plug in those same start and end locations to see what UberX would charge for the same trips. Uber’s system spits out a maximum and minimum fare estimate, which the researchers averaged to compare with the yellow taxi’s costs.

So when does it make more sense to take Uber? “Uber appears more expensive for prices below 35 dollars and begins to become cheaper only after that threshold,” the researchers say.

Using their findings, they have even created an app called OpenStreetCab. It’s sort of like an Expedia or Travelocity for city transportation, letting you type in your start and end locations to compare the price of hailing an Uber with the cost of a yellow taxi, so you can always choose the best deal. The data they have analysed is only relevant to New York, however, so keep that in mind.

“As observed in a variety of empirical data, human mobility tends to be characterised by a vast majority of short trips. This observation therefore suggests that Uber’s economical model exploits this trend of human mobility in order to maximise revenue,” the researchers said in their paper.

“We argue that the process of comparing two different companies that provide the same service in the same geographic area is of value to commuters.”

If you’re taking a short trip, the researchers suggest you just hail a cab. If you’re going to take a longer trip, Uber will give you a better deal.

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