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Onward Debate: Is Uber’s Arrival Exciting Or Concerning?

With the recent launch of transportation service Uber in State College, it turns out that not everyone is thrilled with its arrival. Two of our writers debate Uber, its quality, and how it will find a place in Happy Valley.

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Excited — Caitlin Gailey:

As corny as it sounds, I’m uber excited that Uber is coming to State College. For months I’ve heard friends brag about Uber-ing home on weekends, while I proceeded to verge on hypothermia during my long walks home. Like many, I was skeptical about the service and the potential for being kidnapped or unknowingly overcharged on my card. It wasn’t until I took my first ride this past fall that I must admit, Uber is all it’s cracked up to be.

I recall my first ride fondly: A driver named James quickly picked me up in his black Honda Accord. My location was set far outside of Pittsburgh, surely an inconvenience for him, but nonetheless he drove me to my destination without complaint. During the ride, I remember yammering on about how I wished we had Uber in State College, and I guess James listened because my prayers were answered.

Upon my arrival, he asked when I had plans to return to the city and asked if I would like his number, since I was no longer in Uber’s city range. He ended up saving me that weekend when my planned ride inevitably fell through, and he even reduced the cost of my ride when we got stuck in traffic. I know I essentially got the fairy godmother of Uber drivers, but I like to think that the next time I ride, I will have a similar experience.

Unfortunately, no fairy godmother can save me from the wrath that is a State College winter. Hypothermia is not something I want to mess with, but on my mile-long walks back to West campus through the State College tundra, it’s a very real possibility. I don’t have the time or patience to wait outside a house for a cab to potentially appear. I have enough Yaks about delivery drivers taking students home to know that the possibility of the taxi showing up in a reasonable time frame is not exactly good.

With the Uber app, I know exactly how far away my ride is, and exactly how much it will cost. I would give anything to get out of the cold and save my bleeding feet from walking further in heels — and it seems like Uber is my lifeline.

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Hesitant — Claire Marchon:

As a frequent State College taxi customer, I have driven with Happy Valley Ride, Nittany Express, AA Transit, and have even taken the Vamos! Lion Chariot to the emergency room. I have had my fair share of issues with each service, but for the most part, the rides went as expected (with the exception of my rupturing appendix).

This past summer, I Uber-ed about a half dozen times, usually with a large group of friends within different parts of San Francisco, where the headquarters of the company are located. The cars were sleek and new, and each driver was beyond congenial. One of the drivers even entertained me and my friends the entire ride, telling us how each one of his 17 cats received its names.

My Uber experiences were generally more positive than my experiences with the traditional State College taxi — yet I still have my doubts about Uber’s State College debut.

The luxury car service has destroyed the taxi industry in San Francisco; according to the San Francisco Examiner, the average monthly trips per city taxi have dropped almost 65 percent. San Francisco has a population 20 times larger than State College, and an economic structure far more complex than ours. If Uber can infiltrate an economy that is exponentially larger than that of State College, imagine how hard it might hit our small college town. I am picturing the dozens of State College residents, employed by taxi services, out of work.

The safety of ride-sharing services is also the topic of much debate. Numerous Uber drivers have been accused of kidnapping or assault, and many question how comprehensively Uber checks the backgrounds of its drivers. An Uber driver who was charged with assaulting a passenger in 2014 was previously convicted of felony drug charges, a red flag that should have been observed during a routine Uber background check. An Uber driver was accused of attacking a San Francisco passenger with a hammer, and there have been reported Uber kidnappings in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The Silicon Valley-based company even denied responsibility of the death of a six-year-old girl who was fatally hit by an Uber driver in 2013.

When Uber finally does roll around, it will be hard holding myself back from jumping on the bandwagon. But let’s make our priorities clear: There are dozens of jobs in jeopardy, and we are supporting a company that has numerous assaults, kidnappings, and even a death under its belt. It is not that I don’t sympathize with those long, cold walks home, because I do, but there are bigger things at stake.

Photo: Uber

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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