Uber representatives said the global ridesharing company’s first week in Laramie went well, but a local taxi company representative expressed concerns about Uber’s effect on the local economy.
“We’ve had a really excellent response throughout the state,” Uber Territorial Manager Franz Schreiner said. “We do well in college towns because there is plenty of need for a ridesharing option and college students need flexible ways of earning income.”
While Schreiner said he couldn’t release data regarding the number of drivers Uber employed in the area or the how many rides were requested, he said the response has been positive.
“Wyoming is growing wonderfully,” Schreiner said.
University of Wyoming student and Uber driver Bouzeriba Alsunuse started driving for Uber about a week ago.
“It is good,” Alsunuse said. “The extra money is good.”
A soil microbiology graduate student, Alsunuse said Uber’s flexible hours allowed him to spend time with his family and complete the lab work for his degree.
Although he primarily works weekends, he said they have been busy.
“I go out after 10 (p.m.),” Alsunuse said. “I’ve had about 10-12 calls a night.”
However, Chantelle Brawley, primary driver and co-owner of Snowy Range Taxi, said good news for Uber wasn’t necessarily good news for Laramie.
“They severely undercut the local taxi companies,” Brawley said. “(Uber) doesn’t spend any of its money here.”
In a post on the Snowy Range Taxi Facebook page, Brawley and fellow co-owner Matthew Brammer say 95 percent of the money spent at the taxi company stays in Wyoming while half the money spent with Uber leaves the state.
“All of Snowy Range Taxi company’s money is spent here,” Brawley said.
With Uber, she said customers will lose out on the wealth of knowledge she has accumulated driving taxi in Laramie for nearly a decade.
“I know roads that aren’t on Google maps,” Brawley said. “I know the little-hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I’m about as local as they come.”
Schreiner said Uber accepts applications from anyone willing to apply, but they must pass a criminal background check, sex offender registry check, department of motor vehicle check and provide their customers with photo identification, their license plate number and the make and model of their car.
“Uber is one of the safest, most reliable ways to get transportation,” Schreiner said.
While riding with Uber, he said a passenger can share their route and location using Uber’s app ensuring family and friends know their whereabouts for the entirety of the trip.
“In case that vehicle pops off the map, you know where that vehicle is supposed to be,” Schreiner said. “There’s multiple different safety barriers built into (Uber’s software).”
Brawley said that software also works against the customer.
“We don’t keep your credit card info on file,” she said. “And we’re not tracking where you’re going.”
The taxi company is working on an app, she said, but it won’t provide GPS or allow customers to pay for the ride service digitally.
“Uber’s had problems with their accounts being hacked,” Brawley said. “You’re not going to have that problem with us.”
Uber’s payment system is cashless, which makes driving for Uber safer than traditional taxi driving Schreiner said. Customers use the Uber app to pay for the ride with either a credit card or other digital payment methods.
While Uber accepts applications from any qualified driver, Brawley said Snowy Range Taxi ensures their drivers receive training before transporting customers.
“Someone rides with (driver applicants), and if they don’t drive safe enough, they don’t drive for us,” Brawley said.
Uber did not require safety training before Alsunuse began work, Alsunuse said.
Uber’s approach to employing drivers benefits customers, Schreiner said.
“One of the beauties of Uber is anybody that can pass a background check and driver license check can sign up to drive,” Schreiner said. “The more drivers we have available, the more reliable our network is.”
After Gov. Matt Mead signed House Bill 80 on March 6, which allows ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to legally operate in the state, Alaska is the last state lacking an Uber presence, he said.
“We have a lot big steps we’re working toward,” Schreiner said. “We are a global business. We’re all over world.”