Uber Gets Green Flag To Operate in Kennewick
After hammering out a resolution to the issue of who would be conducting driver backround checks, the City of Kennewick has reached an agreement that will allow the citizen-driven public transportation company Uber to begin offering services in the city.
While no official date has been given as to when the taxi-inspired service will start, officials say it's a go.
Uber originally tried to start up earlier this year, but ran into a snag with the city. Kennewick officials had wanted to be in charge or oversee the backround checks Uber runs on perspective drivers, but Uber wanted that role.
A compromise was worked out. Uber will conduct the checks, but the city will have the authority to periodically audit, or inspect the process and results.
The measure will also allow other internet-based transportation companies to operate in the city. Uber is an online based public transportation company that started in San Francisco about seven years ago. Last year the company reported earnings of about $1.5 billion dollars.
The concept is pretty simple. People sign up to be drivers online, and can utilize their App to use the service. Regular folks who pass the backround and security tests can offer their services as a taxi pretty much anytime they want to. Drivers use their own personal cars as the source of transportation.
Uber's pricing is somewhat based on traditional metered taxi platforms, but also uses what's called 'surge pricing.' During peak traffic and busy hours, prices can rise, but often fall below metered rates during less peak periods. Uber says the tradeoff is being able to get a ride literally within minutes of placing a request via their App. Credit cards are usually used and automatically billed. Uber has also been working with developers to accept cash payments, although this practice is not yet widespread in all operational markets.
The company has received some resistance and criticism from taxi and other transportation companies, who claim using 'unlicensed' drivers is unsafe. Some call them 'pirate taxis' but the company continues to grow. Uber counters by saying they very stringently screen driving applicants, including their driving record.
However, in larger cities, many taxi drivers also work for Uber, and can, during 'surge pricing' periods, make more money than the restricted unchanging metered rates of taxi firms. In some larger U.S. cities such as New York, and a few overseas, some taxi driver unions have gone on strike in the past to protest the competition, and the effect it's had on their service, pricing and profits.
Any potential effects on local taxi or transportation services will not be known until the service gets up and running for a while.