Local Uber driver says service underutilized so far

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

Chris Miller became one of Troy’s first Uber drivers in July just days after a bill was signed into law allowing the company, as well as other ride-sharing businesses, to operate statewide.

But so far, Miller said he hasn’t found a lot of people looking for a ride around Troy.

“I’ve stayed online in Troy most of the last month and only had one rider,” Miller said.

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And he doesn’t blame Troy residents for not utilizing the service.

“Right now the cost is unbelievably expensive; it’s $10 to go from campus to Walmart,” Miller said.

Miller was looking for whether anyone needed a ride to Montgomery Friday night while he went to the city in part to find some more fares.

“The cost would be a $100 ride one-way though,” Miller said. “So I was offering a heavily-discounted price for students.”

And yet, Miller was driving alone to the capital city after not finding any takers.

Of course, it is still too early to tell whether this trend will continue, Miller said.

“Troy students just got back on campus and it has been welcome week,” Miller said. “They’ve only been on campus about three days. But many of them cried that they wanted it so bad, but so far, none of them use it.”

Uber operates by allowing users to search for rides through the Uber app, where riders can be matched with a nearby driver to take them to their destination – basically an on-call taxi service that utilizes a network of drivers who choose to join the company. Any licensed driver over the age of 21 can drive for Uber if they have at least one year of driving experience in the U.S., three years if they are under 23. They also must have an eligible four-door vehicle. Lyft listed similar requirements.

Miller said there is a misconception that people don’t have to spend any money to become a driver, which may be turning some hopefuls away from signing up.

“It’s $23 to get an inspection; it’s not free,” Miller said. “They check your brakes and do background checks, but it’s still so easy to become a driver if you are willing to invest $23 and all of your time waiting around for someone to request a ride.”

Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft were already available in some of Alabama’s larger cities, but the new law allows the services to operate anywhere in Alabama. The law also phases out any city or county regulations or ordinances in place on ride-sharing programs.

Fares vary based on the length of the trip and the location of the ride, but a report from SherpaShare, an app that helps rideshare drivers track mileage and tax deductions, shows that the average trip with Uber from January to May 2015 was $13.36 while the average trip with Lyft cost $12.53.