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Reliability Across the Hub

August 7, 2014 / Boston

Some of the best – and most frequent – feedback we get is that Uber Boston has made it so much easier to find a reliable ride throughout the city, no matter where in the city you might be. So this made us wonder – which neighborhoods were truly being underserved, and has Uber actually helped?

In October 2013, the consulting firm NelsonNygaard published a “Taxi Consultant Report,” commissioned in response to a Boston Globe investigative report on the Boston taxi industry. Among other things, NelsonNygaard’s report explored reliability and responsiveness of taxicabs across Boston neighborhoods.

When we dug into the NelsonNygaard data (details below), the results were alarming: 29-35% of riders in neighborhoods like South Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale couldn’t get a ride within 20 minutes of request.

Figure 1
Figure 1: % of completed cab association trips started within 20 minutes of request

For residents living in these neighborhoods, this data likely did not come as a surprise. For years, they had been underserved by a traditional taxi system, controlled by a select group of wealthy medallion owners that had been allowed to operate with little or no incentive to provide reliable and comprehensive service to all areas of the city.

The data from uberX, however, paints a much different picture, suggesting far greater reliability across all areas of the city. Let’s take a look:

Figure 2
Figure 2: % of completed uberX trips started within 20 minutes of request

To summarize, drivers using uberX’s platform are delivering service at a whole new level – to traditionally well-served and underserved neighborhoods alike. Of uberX partners’ trips completed, 96% of trips started within 20 minutes of request across all Boston neighborhoods – a 28-34% improvement over taxi responsiveness in neighborhoods like Roslindale, South Dorchester, and Mattapan.

But let’s be honest, who wants to wait 20 minutes? In the last 30 days, the median wait time for a ride requested on Boston’s uberX platform was 3.5 minutes.

It’s clear to see that all of Boston benefits from more transportation options, and that’s exactly what Uber is bringing to residents and visitors across the city. uberX’s presence has brought an unprecedented degree of access to reliable transportation throughout the city – no matter where your travels might take you.


Here are the details of our analysis:

  • The data reflects completed trips requested via Uber and one dispatch association in Boston. The dispatch association data comes from the NelsonNygaard map of “dispatch responsiveness” by neighborhood on page ES-10 and the table of dispatch requests served on page ES-9. Because the report was unclear as to what constituted an unserved request, we transformed their data into an unambiguous metric we could make a direct comparison, by dividing dispatch responsiveness in Boston neighborhoods by dispatch requests served by neighborhood to yield % of completed trips served served within 20 minutes.
  • We did our best to recreate the NelsonNygaard report’s neighborhood divisions using Zillow’s neighborhood definitions. We did this by mapping neighborhoods in the original figure, like the Financial District, to neighborhoods in the Zillow data that clearly spanned them (“Downtown/N. End,” in this figure). If more than one neighborhood from the paper mapped to a Zillow shape, we took the maximum value listed for that neighborhood in order to not undersell taxi service.
  • As a reminder, this data reflects one dispatch association. At the time that this report was written, this dispatch association was the 2nd largest in Boston.