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Uber is no longer planning on heading to Iowa City

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | MARCH 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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After Uber spent months expressing interest in heading to Iowa City and furthering its footprint in the Midwest, Iowa City is no longer a top priority for the ride-sharing taxi service.

Uber made the decision after the Iowa City City Council set certain rules and regulations for taxi companies, such as requiring drivers to get identification cards from the city and have them posted in their vehicles for their customers to see.

“They do not like our requirements of driver IDs,” Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Susan Mims, said. “We have set rules and regulations that we think are reasonable and fair for the safety of the people in Iowa City who want to use their services.”

The regulations, which were approved the council in February, aim to address safety issues in Iowa City’s taxi system.

The council recently amended its taxi regulations after numerous reported taxi-violence incidents. The rules are intended to make taxi drivers easily identifiable.

Jennifer Mullin, a spokeswoman for Uber Midwest, said every Uber driver passes a local, state, and federal background check and is covered by a $1 million insurance policy.

Because of that, Mullin said she believes the ID cards the city is requiring are unnecessary.

“The city-issued ID cards add unnecessary redundancy to the process of becoming a rideshare driver and would prevent folks from applying to join the platform to make extra money when they want to,” she said in an email.

In order to ensure safety, she said, each Uber ride is traced by GPS and the customer receives a receipt with the exact route the driver took during the trip.

The Uber app also sends the driver’s name, make and model of the car, as well as a picture of the driver.

Uber also provides customers with a “share your ETA” feature in the app that allows them to share their route and estimated time of arrival with friends and family.

Mullin said she thinks city council has some misconceptions about the app.

“I would encourage the mayor [pro tem] to try out the Uber app next time she’s in Cedar Rapids or another Uber city so she can see how it gives riders a more detailed look at who is behind the wheel and a more transparent experience overall,” she said.

Some students are not in favor of the service.

University of Iowa freshman Matt O’Connor said he believes while Uber is quick and easy, it is not safe.

“When you get an Uber, you are literally putting your life into someone else’s hands you don’t know at all,” he said.

O’Connor said he believes the service would not fare well in a college town, and he is pleased that Uber will not come to Iowa City in the near future.

“Ubers are very sketchy, and when used in college towns, can turn into something much more dangerous,” he said. “Every time you step in to any type of car, you are at risk, but I believe there is a much higher one if the car is an Uber.”

Other students are disappointed.

“The prices are slightly cheaper than normal taxis we have here in Iowa City, so that alone would have benefited a lot of students,” UI freshman Gabe Garcia said. “I also think it would have benefited students regarding safety because instead of walking home, there would be another option.”

Though Uber is active in nearby cities such as Cedar Rapids, it will not expand to Iowa City.

“Iowa City is not in any way preventing Uber from coming [here],” Mims said. “That is a business decision on its part.”


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