A semester later, Uber reactions still mixedBy Annie Milbourn | 11/21/2016 12:10am
Students living in Tuscaloosa enjoy the convenience Uber as an option for transportation, especially on game days. CW / Jake Stevens
Uber, the ride-sharing app that sends a car to a user’s location, was banned from Tuscaloosa back in 2014 due to municipal regulations and safety concerns. After negotiations among the company, the city of Tuscaloosa and the University’s SGA, Uber was able to return to the city of Tuscaloosa this past August.
SGA President Lillian Roth firmly believes the return of Uber has improved the quality of students’ lives by providing safer rides home and adding additional convenience to all the people of Tuscaloosa.
“By working with city councilmen and Tuscaloosa officials, I am still very proud of the decision to bring ride-sharing providers to our community in order to make maximize every student’s campus experience,” Roth said.
Matt Calderone, a city councilman of District 4 in Tuscaloosa, played a major role in bringing Uber back. His comments expressed the turnaround that the city’s government has undergone in a relatively short period.
“Uber has been a tremendous asset to the city of Tuscaloosa and continues to provide a great transportation option for our citizens and those who are visiting our city,” he said.
One of the main reasons for Uber’s removal in 2014 was that traditional taxi companies were required to maintain a $5,000 business license for each vehicle, while Uber only had to get a single license for its operation. Members of the Tuscaloosa City Council, as well as local taxi lobbyists did not think that the regulation was fair.
Uber arrived in Auburn around the same time. Back in August, the company stated, “Bringing Uber to these two college towns has been a priority for us, and we’re excited to be able to supply students with affordable, safe rides.”
When it comes to hiring Uber drivers, the process is the same in Tuscaloosa as it is anywhere else. All a driver has to do is go online and sign up, and then pass the proceeding background check. Drivers must be 21, have at least three years of driving experience, proof of insurance, an inspected car and a clean driving record. A “clean” driving record means that the driver in question has not had any DUI or drug-related offenses, incidents of driving without insurance, fatal accidents or history of reckless driving in the past seven years,
Maggie Rickstad, a sophomore majoring in political science, said she has no interest in using Uber in Tuscaloosa due to a violent incident back in February in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“Yes, the drivers do get screened, but not thoroughly and frequently,” Rickstad said. “The mass shooter in my hometown picked up Uber riders between the locations where he was shooting people, and he was acting normal to them even after he had just killed people. Obviously this is a bizarre and uncommon situation but it shows that it can happen. As a young female I would never want to ride in one alone, no matter if the driver is male or female.”
Another student felt similarly regarding the process of hiring Uber drivers, highlighting the need for better screening.
“I use Uber all the time in Tuscaloosa but have strong opinions on how it is so easy just to become a driver without any interviews to be able to tell if that driver is going to make someone uncomfortable,” said Shelby Dooley, a senior majoring in interior design. “I feel like the drivers should be interviewed or something a little before being given a job.”
Uber is far from the only transportation service in town. Other companies in the Tuscaloosa area include A-1 Taxi Service, E&C Taxi Service, Yellow Cab of Tuscaloosa and Joyride, just to name a few. Some companies are ambivalent to Uber’s presence, while others claim they have been severely impacted.
Joyride uses low-speed vehicles to transport people around Tuscaloosa’s downtown and Strip area and arrived in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 8 of last year. Anything outside of their boundaries, such as the 13th Street area or Presidential Village, comes at an additional cost to riders. Bryan Dill, co-founder of Joyride and founder of Joyride Tuscaloosa, said Uber overall has not hurt their business.
“We’re doing fine. Uber is a completely different kind of thing than we are,” Dill said. “It’s more of an accessory to Uber more than anything because we don’t really consider them a competitor at all.”
Dill said the idea for Joyride came to him when he and his roommate were living in Nashville. They found it hard when a place was too far to walk but too short to drive. That space in between is how they came up with Joyride.
“We haven’t had any drop off. Before Uber came to Tuscaloosa, we were the only option, and our demand was out the roof last year,” Dill said. “We were getting so many calls everyday and could not pick everybody up. I could have had 50 carts last year and still not have enough to handle the demand.”
Dill said that one thing Uber does is help out with is some of the longer rides. “They profit more on the short rides. We don’t really make much on those longer rides,” Dill said. “We’re kind of like the yin and the yang when it comes to transportation.”
If they have had any kind of dropoff, he said it is usually in the evening when people are going out. Since they