By Amanda Yarger
After a quick registration process and the link of a credit card on an app, a request for a ride is all that is necessary to connect with the multi billion-dollar business Uber, the drive-share company that has partners in over 200 cities.
Uber is accessible through its app or site for both users and drivers. Upon signing in, users simply provide their location and destination, and an Uber-certified driver in the area will arrive to pick them up.
Since its launch this past August in Waco, the company has seen significant growth. In January, Uber’s Waco trip usage went up 200 percent, spokeswoman Debbee Hancock wrote in an email to the Lariat.
Despite the various transportation alternatives Waco offers — including taxis, rental cars, the Waco Transit System and Zipcar rentals, Uber expanded to Waco because of Uber’s initiative to provide more transportation options for college towns, Hancock said.
Texas leads the nation in drunken driving casualties, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. However, cities that currently have Uber as an option have seen a significant decrease in drunken driving related deaths, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving report concluded.
Rides have a base fare of $1.90 and an additional $1.75 per mile, or, 25 cents per minute. However, this rate is subject to change through Surge Pricing, which is Uber’s way of raising or lowering prices depending on supply availability.
Brooklyn Center, Minn., junior Beulah Momanyi said that although she’s never used the service in Waco, she found it useful in bigger cities like Dallas where parking may be scarce and expensive.
“I got a ride through Uber because it was a lot quicker and more direct than the shuttles (available),” she said. “It was pretty cool because I was late for my flight. I had never used Uber before and it was between Uber and a taxi — and taxis are expensive.”
On Feb. 2, Uber released its intention of partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. The Center’s concentration will be on creating technology vital to providing “safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere” — the company’s main mission, Uber said in a press release.
A question of safety is one reason that Momanyi said she has not used the service in Waco.
“I don’t know who’s registered for Uber (in Waco),” she said. “Granted, it could be the same thing in Dallas, but for whatever reason I just feel safer in Dallas than I do in Waco.”
Although there is not a set quota for the number of drivers an area can have, in order to become an Uber driver, an applicant needs to have an Uber-approved car model, pass a background test and upload materials such as a driver’s license to Uber, according to the Uber site. Another reason that the number of drivers may vary is because Uber drivers are considered independent contractors. This means that they can choose if, and when to give rides to customers.
The Uber driver standards for Dallas and Waco are the same, but driving distances also play a factor in why Momanyi said she doesn’t use the service in Waco.
“There’s no where in Waco far enough for me to require Uber a lot,” she said.
Brian Pennington, a doctoral candidate in the mathematics department, said he’s used the service in multiple cities, including several trips within Waco.
Pennington said a benefit of the service is that it is relatively cheap. In addition, the service is valuable during times he cannot use his own car or on weekend outings.
“It’s been great, pretty much every time I’ve done it in different cities,” he said.
As the service grows in popularity in Waco, the company will continue its mission to provide safe, affordable transportation.
“We are working hard to make the streets of Waco a safer place for everyone,” Hancock said.