The Keller Magazine

Putting Uber, Lyft and traditional taxis to the test at DFW

Taxis line up outside Terminal A at DFW Airport.
Taxis line up outside Terminal A at DFW Airport. Star-Telegram

If you dread the stress and grind of navigating traffic to and from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport during the holidays, consider giving yourself a gift this season and leaving the driving to someone else.

Companies such as Uber have revolutionized the for-hire vehicle industry and made hailing a ride to and from the airport in Tarrant County easier (and in many cases cheaper) than ever. Since August, it has been legal for drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft not only to take passengers to the airport, but also to pick them up.

Uber and Lyft have well-known apps available for free download on the iPhone App Store and Google Play.

The key is to download a smartphone application, create an account with your credit card and use that to pay for your ride. Uber and Lyft have well-known apps available for free download at the iPhone App Store and Google Play. Users create an account and input a credit card number, which is then charged at the end of each ride. Coupons offering a discount of up to $20 for the first ride are often available.

Those who may not be comfortable catching a ride with an amateur driver in a personal car but aren’t app averse can download a free app called Curb (at either the iPhone App Store or Google Play), which will hail a traditional taxi, complete with a professional driver. After creating a new account on Curb and inputting your credit card information, you’ll even get a coupon for $10 off your first ride.

So, which transportation method is best — Uber, Lyft or taxi? It depends on your definition of “best” — cheapest, easiest, fastest, best driver or a combination of those factors and more.

To find out, I set up a little experiment. I rode repeatedly between two points: DFW’s Terminal C, Gate 19; and the Bottlecap Alley Icehouse Grill in Keller, which is not far from my home. (There was no magic to my selection of this starting point; selfishly, I wanted to grab a hickory bacon cheeseburger between trips.)

All of the drivers except one used global positioning satellite technology to connect the two points.

All of the trips were taken on a midweek afternoon. The shortest distance between the two points is 17.4 miles, taking Farm Road 1709 east to Texas 114 in Grapevine, and a couple of the drivers took that route. But a couple of the drivers opted to take U.S. 377 to Texas 114 in Westlake/Roanoke/Trophy Club, which added four miles to the journey but potentially saved about four minutes of drive time. All of the drivers except one used global positioning satellite technology to connect the two points.

When the rubber hit the road, here’s how the rides compared.

Uber

Where I started: Keller

Wait time: 15 minutes

Travel time: 33 minutes

Cost: $25.42

Experience: The driver, Glenn, arrived in a blue Dodge Avenger. He clearly wasn’t familiar with the area. Pulling out of Bottlecap Alley, he first asked, “Is this Keller?” then commented that “it might take awhile” to turn north on U.S. 377 during heavy traffic.

I offered directions on taking some side roads, but instead he pulled a U-turn and headed north to Texas 114. He was a bit heavy on the brake, as afternoon traffic built on the freeway. He also needed help finding Terminal C once we got to the airport.

But he was friendly and the price of the trip was a bargain.

Good to know: Tipping is not automatically included. Drivers can accept tips, but most will tell you the first time you offer one that it’s not necessary.

Lyft

Where I started: DFW Airport

Wait time: 2 minutes

Travel time: 28 minutes

Cost: $30.59 fare, not including an optional $3 tip

Experience: The driver, whose first name was Mourad, according to his biography on my Lyft app, arrived almost immediately after I launched the app and requested a ride. He drove a Nissan Versa that looked brand new. He wore a dress shirt and was very polite. He looked and behaved like he could work in someone’s corporate administrative office.

He took the long way to Keller, using Texas 114 from the airport all the way to Westlake, where he turned south on U.S. 377. He drove fast — up to 80 mph on a short stretch of Texas 114 in Southlake and Trophy Club — but he was easy on the brakes and didn’t seem to make dangerous moves.

Good to know: The receipt emailed to me showed that the total fare included a $2 airport pickup fee, a $2 toll fee (presumably for the cost of entering and leaving the airport plazas) and $1.55 “trust and service fee,” which Lyft collects to offset the cost of driver background checks and other safety programs.

Executive Taxi

Where I started: Keller

Wait time: 27 minutes

Travel time: 23 minutes

Cost: $38.45, not including a $7.69 tip, or a $10 discount I received for downloading the Curb app.

Experience: The worst part was waiting for a ride. First, the Curb app tried for 10 minutes to find me a cab, before giving me a robotic message saying no driver was available in the area. I tried again, and this time the automatic notification system on the app informed me that a driver had accepted the ride, but he was near Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth and it took him 17 minutes to get to Keller.

He arrived in a Dodge minivan, and it was a black Executive Taxi, even though I had ordered a Yellow Cab. (They’re owned by the same company.) It was a super clean car. The driver, a middle-age man wearing blue jeans and a casual jacket, was very pleasant. He played no music and there was no dispatch radio noise.

While getting out of the cab I accidentally closed the app on my phone, and by default I was charged the $7.69.

Good to know: At the end of the ride, the app flashed a default 20 percent tip of $7.69 but offered me the option of raising or lowering the dollar amount. That seemed high to me, so I thought about lowering the tip, but while getting out of the cab I accidentally closed the app on my phone, and by default I was charged the $7.69.

Yellow Cab

Where I started: DFW Airport

Wait time: 4 minutes

Travel time: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Cost: $48.05 not including $4 tip and $3 ATM fee (see explanation, below)

Experience: Awful. The driver arrived in a yellow Dodge van and looked pleasant, wearing a dress shirt and vest. He had never heard of Keller and asked how to spell it so he could type it into his GPS. “Is it K-I-L-L-E-R?” he asked.

All four windows were down, and when I ask him to roll up the glass nearest me, I detected a faint body odor that became more noticeable during the trip. The driver said he had only been driving a cab in the Dallas area for three weeks but had decades of experience driving for-hire in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and other places.

On Texas 114 leaving the airport area, the driver missed the Farm Road 1709 exit and instead took Texas 26, then followed GPS directions through Colleyville and residential Southlake to get back on track. The trip took 40 minutes, and to make matters worse, when we got to Keller, the cab’s credit card swiping machine didn’t react to my credit card. The driver asked me if I knew where an ATM machine was. There was a bank down the street, so we drove there, and he kept the meter running. He asked me to leave my backpack in his cab (presumably to keep me from running away to dodge his fare) while I walked up to the ATM and withdrew cash, agreeing to a $3 fee since it’s not my bank.

I gave the driver his $48.05 fare plus a $4 tip. He clearly didn’t deserve a gratuity, but I gave him one out of pity. (The way the traditional cab industry is heading, with its reluctance to go all-in with modern technology such as credit card swiping and continued complaints about customer service, he’s soon going to need all the money he can get.)

Do not assume a cabdriver can handle a credit card transaction himself.

Good to know: Do not assume a cabdriver can handle a credit card transaction himself. Even though taxis are required to accept credit cards at DFW, as I found, the machinery can malfunction, leaving you with the choice of either refusing to pay the driver or driving to the nearest ATM to get some cash.

If you take a traditional cab, be sure to carry enough cash to pay the fare.

In conclusion

Whether you’re planning to fly with the family and don’t want to pay for airport parking, or trying to arrange a ride for out-of-town relatives who need to get to DFW, the important thing is the responsibility for driving no longer has to lie entirely with you. Modern options for transportation make getting to and from the airport safer and more comfortable.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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