Transportation Network Services might be an ‘Uber’ issue in Kent

By Heather Inglis and Rachel Godin

When the weekend approaches and the students of Kent State find themselves ready to let loose downtown, two questions always pops up: “How will we get there?” and “How will we get home?”

Between far walking distances and unpredictable Ohio weather patterns, students look to taxi services to safely get where they need to go. However, getting an actual taxi can be difficult and costly—that’s where Uber comes in.

Uber, and a similar app called Lyft, are taxi service apps that allow anyone to get a ride wherever they need on demand. Uber’s website says, “by seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”

Once a ride is ordered, the rider has the ability to see who their driver is, their estimated time of arrival, the model of car and the car’s license plate. Riders can also cancel rides if they choose.

Drivers for these services have no specific boundaries of where they can travel. A rider in Kent can request Uber and to go to Cleveland if need be. Riders can also split fares between passengers and have opportunities to get free rides.

“Uber is so much more convenient when I’m trying to get downtown,” Stacy Cramer, a senior park management major and avid Uber user, said. “I live pretty far away from all the bars and restaurants, so having a dependable ride any time I need it is really nice.”

If they want to come in, they have to follow the same rules.” —Mary Mural-Sizemore

In Kent, however, regular taxi companies are wondering why this ride-on-demand service isn’t being held to the same regulation standards as they are. Porter’s Taxi and 1 Fast Transport, both local-based taxi services, are trying to hold the Kent City Council accountable for regulating Uber within the city.

Uber sounds wonderful, but they are looking at it as a technical point of view. Not a ‘people service,’ ” Mary Mural-Sizemore, whose son owns Porter’s Taxi, said. “But they’re not willing to follow the same policy and procedure as a taxi company has. [Porter’s] did beautifully before they came.”

Mural-Sizemore also argues the safety of Uber, saying the drivers are their own dispatchers, which creates a “scary” independent dynamic for the service and takes away from the local industry in Kent.

“You’re letting somebody from outside come in and take over. I don’t think that’s right. If they want to come in, they have to follow the same rules.”

The council is currently trying to create regulations for Uber and other Transportation Network Services (TNS). That way, TNS and taxis can co-exist in Kent without taking business from one another.

Regulations the city is drawing up for Uber regulation currently a sticker indicator in the back window, and annual registration and background checks for drivers. These regulations would also require drivers to have mandatory insurance on their vehicles, includes annual vehicle inspections and specific types of cars the service can utilize.

Some are hopeful the regulations will build better relations between Uber and the local taxi services. Delon White, Northeast Ohio’s general manager for Uber, said having their service in the community opens up more safe possibilities for riders.

“It’s creating more of a choice,” White said. “It’s getting people to make smarter decisions, especially when it comes to drinking and driving.”

 

Download and view audio transcript here.