Uber in the Napa Valley: Good for tourists?

Uber in Napa and Yountville

Dining at Angele

Uber in the Napa Valley

Wine country travelers to the Napa Valley will be happy to learn this news. Uber has invaded the Napa Valley. Taxi cab drivers may not like this, but certainly tourists will find Uber to be an added convenience for hopping around the Napa Valley. If you don’t already know, Uber is a company that sends drivers for hire at your beck and call. All you need is the Uber App on your smartphone to hire a driver.

Currently, there are three different taxicab companies that service the Napa Valley: Yellow Cab, Black Tie Cab, and Napa Valley Cab. Cabs have, in a sense, a monopoly because there are so many hotels and lodging and so few cabs. Rates can change on the fly. We once took a cab from the Marriott hotel in Napa to Don Giovanni restaurant. On the way back we hired a cab from the same company and the fare was much higher.

Uber started their service in Napa on April 3rd, so it is just beginning to test the waters in the Napa Valley. Looking at the Uber blog, the new service for now looks like it is just between Napa and Yountville. I spoke with Michael Palmer, the General Manager at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. He welcomes Uber. “We have a shortage of cabs currently and sometimes it can be an hour wait for a cab. Right now my Uber App tells me a driver is just ten minutes away.” He also expects that once Uber takes hold in the Napa Valley it will improve taxicab service. “A little competition is good for all.”

The Taxi companies are based in Napa, so their rates are going to be less for travelers staying in the town of Napa. If you are in Yountville or St. Helena, the cost of a cab increases greatly. The concierge at the Hotel Yountville mentioned that a cab right out the door begins at around $20. On my Uber App, I entered a trip from the Hotel Yountville to Mustard’s Grill, just about three miles up the road. The fees would be $7 to $10 for the uberX, $17 to $20 for UberBLACK, and $27 – $32 for the UberSUV. Uber drivers are not allowed to take tips because the tip is figured into the cost of the trip. Black Tie Taxi tells me that they would charge $20 for the same trip, plus tip. If you have a group of six, the SUV Uber would be the way to go with the party members splitting the fare.

Another convenience factor in Uber’s favor is that your trip is automatically charged to your credit card. To sign up for Uber, one downloads the App to their smartphone and enters a credit card number and other pertinent data. As I mentioned above, the tip is included in the total cost of the ride. If Uber is successful, and they should be in the very touristy Napa Valley, I would expect Uber’s competition, Lyft and Sidecar, to also make their way to the Napa Valley.

I do think that hotels and B&B’s should promote safe driving as much as possible. The Napa Valley is all about fine food and wine. Drinking and driving is never a good idea, and hotels should encourage their guests to hire a taxi or an Uber driver. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry,” is never more appropriate than for visitors to the Napa Valley.

The Uber folks are offering up to $15 off for the first two rides. Valid from 4/3 to 4/30/14. Uber coupon

Comments