Need a ride in Anchorage? As of noon today, Uber launched its first service in Alaska with free rides and a growing customer base.
Uber is a ridesharing service, which is a relatively new concept to Alaska. Using an app on a customer’s smart phone, riders can view nearby Uber vehicles in real-time and request a ride from a locally-contracted driver. The app shows a picture of the driver, vehicle information, and estimated cost for the route. An added convenience factor is that there is no cash or card involved; the customer preloads their payment information onto the app and is only charged after the ride is completed.
Alaskans in the job market might also be interested to know Uber is looking for drivers. The company requires prospective drivers to pass several government background checks, have a sedan vehicle in a 2005 model or newer which can pass a safety inspection. Drivers are also required to take an online class and are insured through the service.
As reported by KSKA’s Anne Hillman, there are concerns about what effect this new company may have on local taxi companies. The Municipality of Anchorage has legal requirements for taxi drivers and companies, which Uber has cleared. And this isn’t the only place where the new rideshare service has run against local laws. The company recently won appeals process in Germany for a similar issue. In the words of Uber,” You can’t put the brakes on progress.”
As a former commercial passenger driver, I can tell you starting your own chauffeur business is difficult in Anchorage. There are high fees and a limited permit pool to purchase from. The local transportation infrastructure is also still growing, but mostly lacks adequate travel past South Anchorage or Eagle River. Uber offers another alternative to our public transit system. Passengers can get a ride anywhere a driver is willing to take them.
The app itself allows riders and drivers to share ETAs, route-tracking in real-time, and the ability to request a ride for a friend in another city, or at least anywhere Uber has service. The driver’s information is also visible to the rider or whoever requests the service for that rider. The app keeps phone numbers between drivers and riders anonymous. Calling and texting are enabled through the app itself. Uber’s website states that the company holds drivers accountable to the highest degree. With a 5-point rating system, 5 being the highest, a 4.7-or-lower score might boot you as a driver.
Company representatives plan to work directly with local businesses that have the greatest need for dependable rides for clients, i.e. bars, hotels and restaurants. For out of town travelers, many will be able to continue using a service they are already familiar with. Tonight, Uber will host an arrival party, complete with free rides from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Anchorage’s Flattop Pizza.
Uber has already done well to put itself on the map locally via Facebook ads promoting driver opportunities and has taken up membership with The Boardroom downtown. With the onset of Uber’s growing expansion in just the last few years, the company will soon see if the Anchorage market gives it the green light.