Nearly two years after Uber revolutionized transportation in Philadelphia with its popular car service app, the company is today officially debuting its cheaper UberX option in the region, with chef Marc Vetri scheduled to be the first UberX customer at 3:30 p.m.. The bad news: UberX is only available in South Jersey. (Vetri has a restaurant there.)
UberX works much like Uber: You use your Uber app to summon an UberX driver; the app provides the name of your driver and a photo, and the make, model and license plate number of the car picking you up; and there’s no cash or tipping — everything goes onto your registered credit card.
But while an Uber driver is uniformed and always arrives in a polished, black Lincoln Town Car or similar vehicle, an UberX driver is basically your next door neighbor Tom in his jeans, flannel shirt, and 2009 Kia.
Yes, Uber says it conducts criminal and driver background checks, but these are not professional drivers. You get what you pay for. That said, I've used UberX successfully in New York, Boston and Milwaukee. The rates are incredibly cheap, and in about a dozen rides, I never had a problem.
UberX will undoubtedly be a big hit with riders in South Jersey, but it remains to be seen how the various municipalities there will receive it. UberX has had big legal problems in, among other places, Los Angeles and Washington D.C..
And the Philadelphia Parking Authority memorably jettisoned SideCar (a similar concept) from Philadelphia in 2013, which is probably why Uber isn't bothering to launch UberX in Philadelphia. (Thanks for testing the market, SideCar!) Legally speaking, UberX can drop off passengers in Philadelphia, but it can't pick up.