Uber and Lyft pull into town

by Josie Norris, editor-in-chief.

The popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft pulled into the Tri-Cities earlier this month and their arrival has many excited.

Both Uber and Lyft operate via mobile applications that, once downloaded, allow users to request rides from nearby drivers. The apps require payment methods ahead of requesting a ride, then riders pay the driver for the ride using the app – eliminating the need for cash.

Lyft made its Tri-City debut in late Feb. and Uber launched in the area in the beginning of March.

According to the press release from Uber, drivers are local and use their personal vehicles to give rides on their own schedule, which creates flexible earning opportunities for residents.

In late 2016, Governor Snyder signed into law a package of bills that brought companies like Uber and Lyft under the same regulations as taxis. The laws require the companies to conduct background checks for drivers who register through them as well as annual vehicle inspections.

“Whether it’s complementing existing public transit networks or providing alternatives to drunk driving, ridesharing can play a key role in expanding and connecting our community in new ways,” says Representative Tim Kelly in a press release from Uber.

“I look forward to seeing how ridesharing can extend transportation options for residents across the Tri-Cities,” Rep. Kelly went on to say.

“We’re excited to announce our expansion to the Tri-Cities, which will allow us to provide more economic opportunities for driver partners in the Tri-Cities and greater access to safe and reliable transportation options for all Michiganders,” says Charity Jackson, Uber spokesperson.

Glenn Steffens, site manager for Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services, is not concerned with the introduction of the ride-hailing apps. Steffens sees the low costs of fare for the about 15,000 regular customers as an insulator for STARS. Because STARS closes at 7 p.m. most days, Steffens said that the apps could help transport those who need rides after closing.

“It is a possible advantage for us,” Steffens explained. Steffens sees future partnerships between the companies and STARS to offer services in the area.

“It’s good because it will help people around [the area],” Steffens said.

Uber and Lyft have very similar procedures for becoming a driver and can be found on their websites.

Delta student Garrett Gavort has used Uber before in Ann Arbor at a University of Michigan game and is excited to be able to use it back home.

“I’m thinking that’s great. It’s just easier than a taxi or something like that,” Gavort said.

Thomas Brown, III, of Saginaw has used both apps and was glad to hear that they were now in the area.

“I think it’s awesome for the Tri-Cities. Not only will it add employment opportunities, but I do think in an area where it’s not so much of a walking city, it will help alleviate some of the problems related to DUIs and other driving infractions that happen under the influence,” says Brown.

Brown explained that a lot of the hubs in the area are bars, and individuals have to go to their cars afterward and drive themselves home, potentially not sober.

“This will be a much more convenient option for everyone,” Brown said.

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