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Lane: Bring ride-sharing to Iowa City

BY JOE LANE | JANUARY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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I’ll never forget my first cab ride in college. I don’t often take taxis in Iowa City because nearly everything I need is a short walk or free Cambus ride away. However, last year, as our first semester at school wound down and finals loomed over our heads, my friends and I decided we needed a study break, so we took a bus to the Coral Ridge Mall for a much needed (and probably not deserved) recess.

It wasn’t until we arrived at the mall that we came to the realization that the bus we were on was the last one running that route for the evening.

Our solution of hailing a cab wasn’t an issue until, much to our dismay, we discovered the 5.4-mile cab ride for five people from the Coral Ridge Mall to Burge Hall was over $25 without tip, a bit expensive on a college-student budget.

Fast-forward just over a year. This winter break, while visiting my brother in the Washington, D.C., area, I experienced my first ride on the sharing service Uber.

According to CBS News, D.C. is the 10th most expensive city in which to live in the United States. Yet, despite this fact, an 8.9-mile Uber XLtrip from my brother’s office to the restaurant at which we were having dinner that night cost just over $30, again no tip. Not only that, but UberXL, which provides larger vehicles for larger groups, is more expensive than a regular Uber ride.

While the price of an Uber or any other ride-sharing service in Iowa City would likely vary from that of one in the D.C. area, this price discrepancy between a ride-sharing service and a normal taxi must be addressed.

Tonight, at the Iowa City City Council meeting, proposals will be brought to the table that could potentially remove some barriers to entry into the Iowa City market for ride-sharing services.
The implementation of ride sharing services in Iowa City is nothing short of overdue.

Last December, the campus was abuzz as discussions of a potential tuition freeze (or lack thereof) were heavily debated. Although taxi fare is, generally speaking, not a mandatory cost for students, many find the use of taxis very helpful as a means of safe transportation during and outside of school activities.

Not only would ride-sharing service decrease this cost for students and the general public, it would also allow students (and others) with cars on campus to have a supplemental form of income.

Unfortunately, there are other factors that the city councilors will have to consider tonight as they discuss these ride-sharing guidelines. With ride sharing comes the fear of safety for both the driver and the rider — especially on a college campus.

However, most ride-sharing services have extensive safety precautions in place for both rider and driver. Take, for example, Uber,which, according to its website, has a three-step constantly improving criminal-background check. Another popular ride sharing service, Lyft, also has a multi-level criminal-background check for its drivers and a $1 million insurance policy.

With ride sharing proving successful in other Midwestern college towns, such as Madison and the Twin Cities, and several other successful locations, ride sharing in Iowa City is no longer a question of if, but when.


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