Uber should remain in Tuscaloosa despite lawsuits in other citiesBy Jackson Poe | 10/06/2014 11:33pm
By now, most people have heard of Uber. The ride sharing service has exploded in the past few years and now operates in 45 countries. Uber started off in major markets, but this school year, Uber decided on a new market: college towns. On Labor Day weekend, Uber arrived in 22 college towns throughout the United States, including Tuscaloosa and Auburn.
Uber has received praise for its innovation, but has also received much criticism. Traditional taxi services claim Uber steals market share while not adhering to the same rules and regulations as traditional taxicab companies. Uber contests that it operates as a ride sharing service, not a taxicab service, so it should not be held to the same standards.
There is pending litigation in many major cities in the U.S. as well as other countries about Uber’s operations, the majority of which come from taxicab and transportation companies. Local governments support traditional cab services because they promote local business, which adds to Uber’s problems. In many big cities with well-established cab companies, Uber may be fighting a losing battle.
But in cities like Tuscaloosa, these arguments are completely irrelevant. Big cities have the funds and interest in promoting the local regulated taxicab services. Tuscaloosa, however, does not have any local cab companies to promote or the money needed to fight Uber. There may be a few cab companies registered in Tuscaloosa, but in reality they are not a viable transportation option for students. There are no cabs to call at 2 a.m. when the bars close. There are no cabs to call to drive you a mile closer to the stadium on game days. Uber can provide this type of transportation, and they can do it through a medium we all use on our smartphones, while also keeping prices low.
Uber’s strategy is perfect for college students. It reduces drunk driving and it keeps students from having to walk home late at night.
Another issue at play with Uber is safety. Part of the reason Uber is being driven out of Tuscaloosa is bad press because of a drug and alcohol related arrest of an Uber driver. That is unacceptable, but it is more of a reflection of the driver than the company. Most people who have used Uber would say it has a much safer feel than a traditional taxicab service. Uber provides safety to the city and especially to UA students. Uber makes things easy for the user, and students are much more likely to check their phones for an Uber driver than call a cab and hope one is near Tuscaloosa.
This is one battle the city of Tuscaloosa should not be fighting. Uber should be regulated, but not targeted. The benefits of having Uber in Tuscaloosa are unlimited and it is absurd that the city of Tuscaloosa would spend funds and time to force Uber out.
Jackson Poe is a senior majoring in accounting. His column runs biweekly.