Uber To Launch in State College This Weekend
Getting around State College is about to become a lot easier. Popular mobile application-based transportation service Uber, which has taken the taxi industry by storm, is expected to launch in State College this weekend according to multiple prospective drivers. An exact time and date has not been set, but drivers met with Uber representatives last week and are on call for the imminent launch.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted 4-1 in favor of approving an experimental license for Uber in November, paving the way for the company’s entrance to the State College market. Uber is already active in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and several other cities and towns across Pennsylvania. The service is currently available in 53 countries and more than 200 cities.
Uber has come under scrutiny in the past prompting the PUC to require background checks of all drivers and specific insurance coverage. In Philadelphia, a group of 45 taxi companies filed a federal lawsuit against Uber, essentially arguing that the company is operating an illegal and unregulated taxi service. Uber — which would probably liken established taxi companies to a cartel — allows people to drive their own vehicles to pick up passengers rather than a traditional taxi service, and connects drivers and riders using a sleek mobile phone app. Riders are able to see exactly how far away their ride is, who their driver is, and the expected fare before they get into the vehicle. Despite criticisms for not being subject to strict regulations, there is no evidence that driving with Uber is any less safe than a regular taxi. In fact, studies have shown that DUI rates have decreased in cities where Uber has launched.
“Subject to certain conditions, we believe that this new type of transportation service can be of great benefit to the traveling public and should be certificated by the commission,” PUC Chairman Robert Powelson said in a news release.
Uber was in town this weekend to meet with and begin preparing prospective drivers as they aim for a launch by this coming weekend.
“With the PUC’s decision to grant Uber a license to operate in most of the state, we’re excited to open up our platform to millions more Pennsylvanians, including State College in the near future,” Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett says. “We’ve seen an incredible demand from both riders and drivers in the area looking for more options and greater opportunity.”
Skip Dreibelbis, owner of the local business True Blue Auctions and a member of the Penn State 1986 national championship football team, says he has been in contact with Uber regarding their move to State College. Dreibelbis says the company told him that they see a significant need for the service in the area.
“They told me they called for a taxi on Friday night and waited almost 45 minutes for one to pick them up and take them back to their hotel,” he says.
While some might be uncomfortable with the concept of getting into someone’s car-turned-taxi, Penn State students should be happy for more reliable service and shorter wait times for late-night rides.