It is difficult to remember life before Uber. During my summer in D.C., it was a godsend. It saved me from constant subway delays and closures, public transit deserts, monsoon rains and late-night excursions. It became something I could not imagine living without. Then I returned to Eugene.
Since 2015, the ride-sharing service has been ousted from Eugene for failing to meet local taxi regulations, putting commuters at the mercy of public transit and a handful of taxi companies. But that could soon change. The Eugene City Council opened an opportunity for the company’s return by scheduling a work session this month to discuss changes to the city code to adapt Eugene to the new sharing economy. There has been speculation since 2016 about bringing it back, but now is the time for the city council to stop dragging its feet.
It is time to bring Uber back.
In a mid-sized college town with limited public transportation options, Uber provides an opportunity for students and community members to take full advantage of what Eugene has to offer and create new job opportunities.
Ride-sharing companies can be more convenient, safer and potentially lifesaving for a college town populated with students. The college culture of binge drinking puts people at risk for drinking and driving or not being able to return home safely. Although the University of Oregon provides two free ride programs, Safe Ride and the Designated Driver Shuttle, these programs and their taxi counterparts are plagued with long wait times, and public transportation is also limited as the bus system stops operating at midnight. But scheduling a ride can be difficult if someone has already had one too many drinks. On-demand rides from Uber can prevent this while alleviating overburdened services that already exist.
Reintroducing Uber to Eugene could also provide new job opportunities for students and other community members who have struggled to find employment. Students often accommodate their class schedules to fit their job schedule, sacrificing their education for a paycheck. Uber offers a self-employment alternative, which expands total employment in cities and increases hourly wages for self-employed drivers.
However, there has been some pushback from taxi companies. Threatened from the innovation that ride-sharing apps brought to an industry that has not changed for decades, taxi companies around the nation have engaged in rent seeking to protect themselves and their profits from increased competition. But some companies followed Uber’s steps by introducing their own ride-sharing apps. Local companies should be encouraged to do the same and adapt to the new sharing economy rather than be shielded from its effects.
Although Uber does bring numerous benefits to the cities it operates in, it does have some problems.
Despite these problems, changing the city code to allow similar companies with better business practices to operate in Eugene, such as Lyft, will ultimately benefit the community. It is time for the city council to read the writing on the wall — the sharing economy is here, and it is time for Eugene to join it.