Uber begins operating in Columbia under new regulations

After solving conflicts with city through new regulations, Uber finally begins to operate legally in Columbia.
Photo illustration of a student using the Uber app.

After receiving backlash from the Columbia City Council for operating without permission, Uber is finally operating legally in Columbia, following the release of the city council’s new regulations on Feb. 16, 2015.

Under the new regulations, city government will conduct additional background checks on Uber’s drivers, including federal, county and multi-state records in seven years, according to Feb. 18 Maneater coverage.

“There is no proof that Uber has done their background checks thoroughly,” Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said. “So city government decides to check it for them.”

Trapp also said that driver identity is a common issue for any taxi service. He said the new regulations not only apply to Uber but also to other similar networking transportation companies that may enter Columbia market in the future.

“One of my friends in Chicago used it once, and then the driver wouldn’t stop texting her, so she never used it again,” MU senior Reid Vardell said. “I wouldn’t recommend my girlfriend to use it.”

Another issue with Uber is the disruption to the original taxi market in Columbia, Mayor Bob McDavid said.

“Uber is a disruptive technology,” McDavid said. “In other words, you have the legacy cabs, highly regulated, and now they are disrupted by individual people who are willing to work whenever they want to.”

Accessibility is also a problem with Uber, Trapp said.

“Taxi companies serve everybody, but Uber only serves people with smartphones,” Trapp said.

MU junior Grace Gabel considered Uber an extra opportunity for college students to make extra money.

“I know a lot of my friends want to be drivers,” Gabel said. “I know it is, like, a whole process to become a driver, which makes me feel better about it because it is safer.”

Unlike regular taxi companies, Uber doesn't provide employee benefits to drivers, who are private contractors, Trapp said.

Compared to other transportation options in Columbia, the advantages of Uber are high speed and good price, MU freshman David Ritz said.

“I have heard Uber is better than STRIPES,” Ritz said. “If you call STRIPES late at night, they might take 30 minutes or 45 minutes to pick you up. And people just decided to use Uber instead because they are quicker. You only have to pay a couple bucks.”

In Los Angeles, a 20-minute drive costs only $15, McDavid said. But in Columbia, a six-minute drive costs $10 to $13, according to the estimated price provided by Uber.

“It is a matter of demand and supply,” McDavid said. “When the demand goes up and the supply remains low, the price increases.”

In other words, if there are more Uber drivers in Columbia, the price may decline to a normal level in the future.

Students can use Uber by downloading the Uber app on their smartphone and registering with their debit card information.

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