Uber makes moves into Grand County
February 3, 2015
From San Francisco to Stockholm to Singapore and nearly all points in between, a new type of mass transportation system is taking the global market by storm.
Up here in the high country, far from the frantic din of the city, the company known as Uber is making inroads. Uber is a car service, significantly different from traditional taxi services in two major regards. Born in the age of apps and smartphones, Uber uses a downloadable smartphone application to allow customers to reserve rides. All payment is handled electronically through the app with customer credit cards being billed directly.
Uber is available in 53 countries worldwide and in hundreds of major cities.
The company was initially contacted by the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce and is seeking qualified Grand County drivers. Uber drivers work as independent contractors and once registered with the company can operate in many different locations in Colorado.
Uber drivers must pass criminal and driving background checks. They also must pass a basic physical with a local doctor. Drivers must posses a valid drivers license and insurance. Uber also has various requirements for the driver's vehicle.
The Grand Lake Chamber first contacted the vehicle service in January in an effort to address Grand County's transportation issues. The Chamber states they will work to promote any drivers who do sign up for the program, especially on high traffic weekends. The Grand Lake Chamber intends to develop a Grand County Uber Facebook page when the service becomes operational. The Facebook page will list driver schedules.
Anyone in Grand County can sign up and the service will be available county-wide, depending on the availability of drivers. Prospective drivers can sign up for a position as a contractor with the corporation at the Web address https://partners.uber.com/signup/denver/.
Executive Director for the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, Samantha Miller, confirmed that one driver has already signed up for the service and he is waiting for approval from Uber.
"Hopefully we can be an example for other communities to solve their transportation issues," said Miller.
Uber is generally considered a premium taxi service. In a 2011 blog piece for The Wall Street Journal blogger Lauren Gooded wrote Uber is, "a much steeper fare than a standard cab service." The premium price comes with a few advantages, not least of which is the ease with which customers can request a ride through their phone apps.
The company seems to have courted controversy recently, though. Critics have raised questions about the quality of Uber drivers and the level of scrutiny they receive at the corporate level. Uber has been accused of unfair business practices including calling competitors to reserve rides before canceling at a later time, tying up drivers for competing taxi services.
In 2014 the Web site BuzzFeed reported that during a closed-door meeting a senior Uber executive suggested hiring opposition researchers to dig up dirt on media personalities and journalists who criticized the company. After the story became national news the executive made a public apology and claimed that while he did indeed outline such a plan, neither he nor the company had any intention of actually following through.
Critics and proponents agree though that Uber, and other similar app based service oriented business models, are popular and taking a huge chunk of the market share in major urban environments. Now that business model is being applied to a rural setting.