Uber, Huntsville’s hottest acquisition

The end of July saw Uber driving into Huntsville, an arrival long anticipated by students and residents alike. This new addition to the college town will no doubt impact the community.

What prevented Huntsville from having this widely-known and popular transportation service?  A local law required transportation companies such as Uber to have a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, as well as to pay an annual fee of $5,000 to remain open. The law demanded companies run local, state and federal background checks on all drivers every year.  Because of these regulations, Uber stopped running in several cities, including Austin.

On May 29, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 100, which overrode the local law. House Bill 100 allows citizens to choose their mode of transportation and with whom they ride, creating a free enterprise in transportation apps.

“I think bringing Uber to Huntsville will be positive,” Chair of the Management and Marketing Department Gerald Kohers said. “Students will primarily benefit when it comes to not having to park on campus.”

As many are well aware, parking is a constant frustration for students. Many have to arrive on campus much earlier than their scheduled classes in order to find a parking spot, much less one that is closer to campus. With Uber, students can find a ride more quickly and arrive to campus much closer.

The app will also help students and residents get to work and run errands more efficiently.  Because not all people own vehicles, Uber will help reduce the wait time on busy taxi services.  As such, the app will provide competition for the few taxi services in town.

Kohers added that the addition of Uber will have an economic impact on Huntsville.

“I also would expect that the majority of the Uber drivers would be students, Kohers said. “Which would add a source of income.”

Jobs can be difficult to find in a smaller college town, but with the addition of Uber, students and residents alike can choose when and how they work on their own terms.

The app is simple and efficient to use. Once an account is set up, users can input their credit card, eliminating the need to pay cash or credit in person. Passengers also now have the option to leave a tip from the app, or to the driver directly.

Besides its simplicity, Uber has a personal touch that taxi services cannot always give. Uber driver John Williams drove my roommate and me (on our first Uber ride in Huntsville) to campus this past week, commenting on how we were his first passengers. Williams initially wanted to drive for Uber Eats, but discovered there were guidelines in place for vehicles. He had the option to lease a vehicle from Uber if his vehicle did not pass regulations.

Riding with another driver brought new information that may hinder some prospective drivers. Vehicles older than 15 years are not allowed in Uber. William’s vehicle was thirteen and a half years old, so he would have to either lease or buy a new vehicle after another year.

Any changes the app brings will prove to be a beneficial addition to the town. Huntsville will see a positive economic impact, an improvement on parking and more reliable transportation around town with third party ride-hailing services.

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