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Editorial: Don’t close Iowa City to ride-sharing

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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With Uber eyeing Iowa City as a potential location of service, local taxi companies are starting to get very worried about the time they have left as the dominant lucrative transportation service in such a young, college-oriented town — and they should be.

Iowa City is an ideal location for a ride-sharing service to thrive. Our city is densely populated, young, tech-savvy, and always seeking convenient and cheap transportation. This is exactly why Uber, the crowd-based ride-sharing company, is looking at Iowa City as a potential location.

Uber runs in more than 40 countries and 100 cities worldwide. Its users can request a ride via the Uber app, be picked up based on their exact location, and pay, all via their phone. The ride-sharing company’s drivers tend to be ordinary people who live locally, so striking up a normal conversation is very easy. These are the types of people that you walk by on the street on a daily basis. Because of the nature of crowd-sourced companies, Uber and its many competitors often cost considerably less than taxi services.

With ordinary drivers and cheap fares, its no wonder ride-sharing services are becoming so popular. In addition to Uber, other similarly structured services such as Lyft and Sidecar are widely popular, which operate in 60 and 10 major U.S. cities respectively. In this niche market, even more selective companies are sprouting. Wingz is a company that specializes in rides to and from airports. Other transportation network companies include Summon, which serves the greater San Francisco area, and Haxi, which is a European-based ride-sharing service.

If nothing else, ride-sharing is a lucrative trend, though the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes it is much more than that. Ride-sharing services such as Uber are exactly what the Iowa City community needs with regards to transportation: timely and cost-effective. Cambus can be unreliable with a limited range, and taxis are quite expensive. Of course, the introduction of Uber into Iowa City would mean much more competition for local taxi companies, several of which have publicly disapproved of Uber coming to Iowa City and are trying to block it.

The Iowa City taxi companies are fighting an uphill battle trying to stop such an in-demand service from coming here. Roger Bradley and Rafat Alawneh, manager of Yellow Cab of Iowa City and owner of No. 1 Cab, respectively, have both voiced concerns over the city’s insurance policies and Uber’s inability to comply with them. Despite Jennifer Mullin, a spokeswoman for Uber Midwest, contending that Uber drivers are covered by a $1 million umbrella policy, Iowa City officials are looking to rewrite policy to accommodate ride-sharing services.

The cab companies of Iowa City trying to prevent ridesharing services from coming here is a futile act. Ridesharing is a smart and effective method of transportation, especially in a city like ours. Iowa City is the perfect blend of culture and demand that necessitates a service like Uber. Bradley and Alawneh’s concerns are not to be glossed over. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes city officials should rewrite insurance policies to ensure the safety of our citizens, but they should not make Iowa City any less appealing for Uber or other ridesharing services by creating too much overhead cost. From safe transportation on weekends to convenient service catered to the customer, ridesharing is perfect for Iowa City.


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