BOYLE HEIGHTS — Uber celebrated reaching its goal of 12,000 driver-partners in Los Angeles at the Puente Learning Center April 13 along with nonprofit partners and the Mayor’s Office Of Economic Opportunity.
It also announced that it is expanding that goal by committing to 15,000 additional drivers in the next 12 months.
Uber has changed the way people navigate metropolitan cities like Los Angeles since its founding in 2009 by providing an economic alternative to taxis and public transportation. Similar competitors have been founded like Lyft. However, none of them have as many drivers or serve as many cities.
Uber also has provided many people with a way to earn extra money. Some have gone as far as making a full-time commitment to driving for Uber.
“What we’ve heard from a lot of people is that they love it because it’s like their own business,” said Eva Behrend, a spokesperson for Uber. “They get to turn [the Uber app] on and off whenever they want. Sixty-five percent of our drivers are driving part-time to supplement their income.”
The ride-hailing company’s rates are lower than cab fares in most cities and provide a level of convenience that public transportation can’t match. The company views itself as a lifestyle choice. It offers carpooling options as well as private transportation in luxury vehicles.
Uber uses standardized smartphone technology to allow customers to request a ride with a push of a button and see when the driver is arriving at their location on a Google-style map. The Uber app even allows customers to see a picture of their driver and the car they are driving.
“The bus system took a long time,” said Francis Castro, a college student. “It was faster to walk sometimes.”
Castro has been an Uber customer for a few years now. She said there weren’t many drivers and she had to wait a significant amount of time when she first started using the service. However, she said the average wait time now is about five minutes.
Castro said she prefers Uber to riding on the bus especially when traveling with her young daughter. She explained that she would miss the bus sometimes because her daughter walks at a slower pace than her. She added that using a stroller helps. However, she also said a stroller is inconvenient on a bus.
Provided that the driver keeps their trunk clean, people like Castro can place their belongings like a stroller in the car’s trunk. However, users of Uber’s most popular service, Uberpool should take into consideration that they might share a car with other customers.
Although ridesharing and ride-hailing in general is convenient, it also brings new challenges for law enforcement. There is no shortage of horror stories of drivers being mugged, dealing with beligerent drunk customers and sexual harassment.
Customers have their own horror stories. There is no shortage of stories of rude drivers and there have even been reports of drunk drivers picking up customers as well as drivers sexually assaulting customers.
The company is even facing a $1.1 million fine for not appropriately addressing complaints of impaired driver from 2014 to 2015.
Behrend said the company has zero tolerance for impaired drivers. She also said Uber has significantly improved the way it addresses complaints.
Castro recommends all Uber customers rate their drivers appropriately, since customer feedback is the only way Uber has of holding their drivers accountable.