GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.--Uber hit West Michigan over a month ago.
It has caused controversy in cities all across the United States concerning regulations with drivers’ permits and insurance. West Michigan taxi companies were not happy to find out their business might get swept by people using the app.
ArtPrize is in full swing, and lots of people from out of town are looking for transportation to get around. Transportation companies are competing for the business. Yellow Cab Taxi in Grand Rapids has been around for 50 years, and says they are the more reliable company for the job.
“It was a little alarming to let any Joe with a 2006 or newer car to come in be allowed to pick you up and the customer actually pays them money,” said Heather Gardner, a dispatcher at Yellow Cab.
Yellow Cab was not excited when Uber came to town, and didn’t know how it would affect their business. Now two months in, they say Uber hasn’t changed much.
“I might have seen some changes in the beginning when they first came, I think it had to do more with them giving free rides for the first two weeks,” said Gardner.
“I don’t think they are a threat to us at all; we are grounded. We have been here as long as I can remember. Yellow Cab is a business that’s been here, and Yellow Cab is a name that you know, and it's everywhere,” she said.
Reed Bloomfield, a new driver for Uber, says he doesn’t believe Uber will take business away from the taxis. He says most of his customers are millennials.
“One of the differences between taxis and Uber is that taxis can solicit rides and they are on the side of the road and can ask people to come in. We can’t do that. Our requests come through the app, so taxis definitely get more business than we do at this point,” said Bloomfield.
Bloomfield has been driving for Uber for three weeks, and he knows the taxi companies are getting more business and that’s okay with him. Driving for Uber is a convenience and a way for him to earn an extra $1,000 a month.
“You have drivers across the city that could be running errands and then they have their app open and available. If someone wants to ride with them, they can. It’s just linking those two people together ,” he said.
Bloomfield believes ArtPrize is going to increase his 20-30 rides on a Friday and Saturday night, and he’ll even work the days for some extra cash.
“A lot of people who are coming to ArtPrize are coming from cities that already use Uber. They are already familiar with it. I picked up somebody this weekend and the first thing they did when they got to Grand Rapids is checked to see if we had Uber,” said Bloomfield.
Gardner agrees that people who are coming from bigger cities that are familiar with Uber will probably call on them first to get a ride.
“Of course they are going to use Uber. We have enough people to fall back on when that happens, so we aren’t really worried about it too much,” she said.