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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 6/17/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Uber draws shrugs in Toledo

Reaction muted so far to entry of latest ride-sharing service

BY CHIP TOWNS
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The arrival of ride-sharing services has caused an uproar in some cities, but in Toledo it has been more of a low buzz.

Uber is getting ready to join the conversation. The San Francisco company announced Friday it would begin operations June 27 in Toledo. Until then, people can try out the service for free.

Uber’s arrival follows the arrival of Lyft, a similar service, by about six weeks.

Here’s how Uber will work in Toledo:

Users download the Uber app to their phone and enter their credit card information.

Once it is approved, users can summon a Uber driver using the app. Uber finds the nearest driver and sends them to the rider’s location. Drivers use their own private cars.

The rider can get a photo of the driver, a photo of the car, and the license plate information. The app will also track the driver’s progress toward the rider’s location.

Uber is a cashless operation. When the rider is dropped off at the destination, the fee is charged to the credit card, and a receipt is emailed to the rider.

The fees vary by city. In Toledo, there is a $1 base fare, plus 30 cents per minute and $1.50 per mile, as well as a $1 “safe rides” fee. The minimum fare is $4, and the cancellation fee is $5.

The Blade went to uber.com/​cities/​toledo to get a fare estimate for a trip from Franklin Park Mall to Fifth Third Field, a distance of about seven miles. Uber estimated the fare at $15-$21.

Uber keeps 20 percent of the fare, and the driver gets the rest.

Uber can be as much as 25 percent cheaper than a traditional taxi, said Lauren Altmin, a spokesman for the company in Chicago.

Ms. Altmin said Uber does extensive background checks on its drivers, which is the reason for the “safe rides” fee.

“Safety is paramount to our operations,” Ms. Altmin said.

She said Uber also requires that vehicles used can’t be more than 10 years old.

Drivers must have their own insurance, but Uber also has an insurance policy that covers drivers and passengers.

In some cities, Uber and Lyft have been accused of running an unlicensed taxi service. Cab companies say the ride-sharing companies avoid the inspection costs and fees they are required to pay.

Adam Loukx, Toledo city law director, said the city is still trying to decide what action is appropriate, if any.

“We haven’t seen an overwhelming number of pink mustaches,” Mr. Loukx said, referring to the trademark accessory that Lyft drivers attach to the front of their cars. (Uber drivers have no special signs on their vehicles.)

Mr. Loukx said the city has received some complaints from traditional cab companies, but he was not aware of any complaints from residents.

Mr. Loukx said the city is watching what happens in other cities, including Columbus.

In Columbus, the city filed a lawsuit against Uber, saying city law requires for-hire drivers to be licensed by the city.

The lawsuit also argues that public safety is at risk because the city cannot verify drivers’ backgrounds or conduct vehicle inspections.

Columbus sought a temporary restraining order blocking the company from doing business there, but a judge refused, saying the city had the right to ticket drivers if they were breaking the law.

Lyft, while very similar to Uber, avoids some of the legal problems by saying that its drivers are volunteers and advises customers of “suggested donations” instead of fares.

In several European cities last week, taxi drivers clogged the streets to protest Uber.

Uber and Lyft officials have said increased competition will bring prices down and benefit consumers.

Contact Chip Towns at: ctowns@theblade.com or 419-724-6194.



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