Uber vs. Lyft vs. taxis: Comparing ride-hailing options in Denver

Categories: News, Tech

Are all cab rides created equal? Not in Denver. As described in our current cover story, "Street Fight -- Are Denver Cab Companies Ready for an Uber Bumpy Ride?," unique state rules mean no two Denver taxi companies are alike in how they operate and what they charge riders. Add to that various power struggles over control of the lucrative metro taxi market, plus the recent incursion of smart phone-based car-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, and you have a lot to consider before hailing a ride. Keep reading for a breakdown of your options.

Yellow Cab, as seen by denveryellowcab.com.
Yellow Cab
Launched: 1924
Fleet size: 300 cabs
Color scheme: Yellow
Phone number: 303-777-7777
Smart phone app: Taxi Magic
Meter rate: $2.50 base fare plus $2.25 per additional mile
Driver lease rate: In 2012, most drivers paid Yellow Cab $460 a week
Feel-good story: One of the oldest Yellow Cab operations in the country, Yellow Cab was once a driver-owned co-op called Yellow Cab Cooperative Association.
Not-so-feel-good story: Yellow Cab is now owned by the multinational transportation firm Veolia Transportation. In 2012, the company was ordered to pay more than a million dollars as part of a legal arbitration with drivers that involved allegations of discrimination, verbal abuse and physical assault.

Metro Taxi
Launched: 1985 in its current permutation
Fleet size: 492 cabs
Color scheme: White, with either red or green trim
Phone number: 303-333-3333
Smart phone app: Denver Taxi App
Meter rate: $2.60 base fare plus $2.25 per additional mile
Driver lease rate: In 2012, most drivers paid Metro Taxi $540 a week
Feel-good story: Metro Taxi owner Robert McBride, the son of poor Irish immigrants, worked his way up from his start as a limo driver, and was recently president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.
Not-so-feel-good story: McBride is aiming to sell his company to the owner of Yellow Cab, which could result in an international corporation controlling more than 60 percent of the Denver taxi market.

Freedom Cab
Launched: 1995
Fleet size: 300 cabs
Color scheme: Purple
Phone number: 303-444-4444
Smart phone app: None
Meter rate: $2 base fare plus $2 per additional mile
Driver lease rate: Most drivers pay Freedom $300 a week
Feel-good story: When Freedom launched, it was the first completely new Denver cab company allowed to launch in nearly fifty years. The company prides itself on its low meter and driver lease rates.
Not-so-feel-good story: Competitors sometimes accuse Freedom taxis of being shabby. The company does not have a computerized central-dispatch system, just two-way radios.

Union Taxi Cooperative
Launched: 2009
Fleet size: 150 cabs
Color scheme: Orange, green and white
Phone number: 303.922.2222.
Smart phone app: Union Taxi Cooperative
Meter rate: $2.25 base fare plus $2 per additional mile
Driver lease rate: As a co-op, drivers own the company; they pay $175 a week in membership dues
Feel-good story: Union faced strong opposition when it applied to launch in 2008, with Yellow, Metro and several politicians arguing it would hurt the taxi industry. Instead, a 2012 state report found the local taxi market had thrived when Union had begun service three years earlier.
Not-so-feel-good story: Unclear, but if you ask enough competing taxi drivers, you'll surely find one.

Mile High Cab
Launched: Spring 2014 (proposed)
Fleet size: 150 cabs
Color scheme: TBD
Phone number: TBD
Smart phone app: TBD
Meter rate: TBD
Driver lease rate: As a co-op, drivers own the company; membership dues are not known
Feel-good story: After Colorado's Public Utility Commission rejected their 2008 attempt to start a cab company, Mile High's founders took the matter to court -- and the Colorado Supreme Court found in their favor. Thanks to a final green light by the Public Utility Commission several weeks ago, Mile High plans to hit the streets later this spring, after five years of effort.
Not-so-feel-good story: Mile High's founders have clashed over control of the operation, leading to several of them being forced out of the company and taking the matter to court.

Keep reading for the rates from Uber and Lyft.

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Taxicabs (just like Uber and Lyft) use drivers that are independent contractors, meaning that when the publics reduces using a service it is the drivers that suffer, not necessarily the company who can find a replacement or have weaker service levels(ie fewer cabs, smaller service area). Cab drivers pay on a fixed cost basis due to the fact that we take cash, voucher, and credit. Uber's exclusive use of credit allows for a percentage take. So, it's primarily more experienced high level drivers that leave the business when marketshare ebbs.

A wounded and weakened taxi market will end up hurting consumer choice, especially for those many people that aren't able or willing to "make the switch." Stressed out, broke, inexperienced, pissed off cab drivers don't pick up the hard to serve customers at the hospital, grocery store, or tough neighborhoods. A wounded taxi market will hurt the choice of those that stick with the taxis, of which their are many. Many people lack smart phones, credit cards, and need a taxi yet pay with a voucher. It's not that many, and certainly not enough to give good coverage 24/7 throughout the whole metro area. For those that do have smart phones Yellow Cab has Taxi Magic and Ztrip, both of which are fresh, solid and have all of the features the upstarts claim is new. Both apps connect me (the driver) to a great many customers. They work very well.

Taxis serve the whole community in a million different ways that the apps can't.

Rideshares only serve middle class, dense, urban, white, Capital Hill, Highlands, and Washington Park.

Taxis are the last line of defense when nobody else can help you. You can be rightfully upset that the driver that shows fits this or that "crappy cabbie" stereotype. Yes, I get it. But a city can't get away with what it's doing. It just can't. Taxis make a city work. We are too important to ignore or neglect.

Next time your phone dies, remember Uber can't help you either.


Yes!! this is great information for this growing industry!! Ridesharing is certainly changing the face of transportation! Convenience, ease of use and an excellent service will ensure that these companies will be around for a while! Surge pricing serves a great purpose, as do airplane ticket and hotel costs rise when there is more of a demand than supply. Have you tried Lyft yet? Download the FREE app and use promo code 37PZ7Z for your first ride FREE, up to $25. Code can be shared with friends, and used in all cities where Lyft is available. Code is for new customers. Try the service out for yourself and learn first hand, what all that excitement is about! Put this code in, immediately after you download the app 37PZ7Z


Where has the Westword been?  Yellow Cab has been using zTrip as their app for about 6 months now.  I can't even tell you how many people I know have been using that for taxi and town cars when Uber raises the rates on you. 

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

              Boycott the Greedy Big $$ Taxi Monopolies !!

Support your Local Private Ride Sharing / Carpooling drivers!

RobertChase topcommenter

I have used Uber, Lyft, UberX, and all of the so-called "car-sharing" services in Denver.  Lyft and UberX would seem to obviate the need for cab companies entirely, but requiring that drivers be insured while looking for rides makes sense.  All increase our options, but what we really need is effective public transportation, and RTD is not.  The build-out of the existing system of trains will help a little, but we need new approaches.  Bus Rapid Transit -- fully implemented -- is cheap and works, but there is a technological solution which might almost be capable of compensating for having allowed developers to turn our cities into random sprawl.  Skytran proposes a rapid transit system based on ambient-temperature-maglev and lightweight infrastructure which can be built for a fraction of the cost of light rail and can be suspended over existing right-of-ways.  Rapid transit is possible and affordable, especially in comparison with all other solutions -- cabs and cars in general are an inefficient means of getting where we need to go.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@l.merrick0  ... let the FREE MARKET decide, and stop demanding preferential government protectionism for monopolistic taxi companies.


Boycotting local small legit business's (like mine) that have only been there to help you is shameful. As a cab driver I don't make "BIG $$" nor am I over paying my cab company, when I do. They work a lot harder and have far greater expenses than does Out-of state Uber. If I work hard, I make a modest living providing a valuable service to the public. How dare I. This fight isn't about companies. It's about drivers and those that the drivers serve.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase  "but requiring that drivers be insured while looking for rides makes sense."

Insurance is already mandatory for all motor vehicles on public roads.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@l.merrick0  ... so let THE CONSUMER decide. If your service is so great, your customers will continue to patronize you, if not, you'll lose them to competitors.

HipTip: hedge your bets and operate as both a taxi and an independent ride share driver.

RobertChase topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay  It was recently reported that the so-called "ridesharing bill", SB125, did not require the companies or their drivers to obtain commercial liability insurance covering time spent cruising for rides (although such a requirement may have been added).  Drivers for Lyft and UberX have personal liability insurance which explicitly excludes from coverage acting as a livery service; although the companies involved can avoid being classified and regulated like cab companies, even if their drivers accept optional donations for rides, they can hardly claim not to be engaged in a commercial activity, so their personal insurance is not in effect while they share their cars with passengers who pay for the privilege.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter


1) Liability insurance is mandatory for all motor vehicles on public roads

2) Under Universal Health care, personal medical insurance coverage or medicare is mandatory for everyone, so the passengers are covered under their own health insurance, in addition to any liability policy of the driver/car owner. Additionally, many passengers would be covered by their own motor vehicle insurance policy even when a passenger in another vehicle.

3) Commercial or not, vehicle insurance policies exclude many activities on paper -- such as criminal acts, including DUI -- yet they still pay damages to others harmed by criminal DUI drivers, or when a stolen vehicle harms another person(s). 

4) Donations to cover nominal costs of the ride -- such as those that many Ride Sharing and Car Pools engage in -- do not necessarily make the operation of the vehicle "commercial" in nature.



@l.merrick0 @fesoferbex While I am indeed originally from Colorado, I do not currently live there. So in all honesty your accusing me of something that I have no idea what you are talking about. What "boycott"?

But, I would like to point out that a week ago I really had little to no opinion of public transit and more specifically cab/limo type services.

Now I do.

I think it's nothing but government sponsored monopoly that hurts drivers and consumers.

You might not believe it, but my ideal outcome for you is that your job is less regulated you make more overall and can provide better service to your customers, REGARDLESS of the platform you choose to operate on.

Apparently a number of traditional cab drivers HAVE been switching over to being full-time Lyft and Uber drivers. The current median Lyft salary in San Francisco is around $74K/year and the median Lyft salary in NYC is around $90K/year. I don't know what you make, but those numbers are significantly higher than the median income in America at the moment.

No hard feelings, ok? I think the old laws are cramping progress, and I hope you survive the growing pains.

I wish you luck. 

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