Jeanette “Jenny” Bywater is one of Cache Valley’s first <a href=”https://www.uber.com/”>Uber</a> drivers. She was introduced to the popular ride-for-hire service by her niece, who lives in Provo, and thought it sounded like a great way to earn some extra cash.
Bywater, who lives in Hyrum, signed on with Uber on Feb. 4, when she said the option first became available in Logan. While she’s had the opportunity to provide a couple of rides locally, most of the work she’s done so far has been in Salt Lake City. Hoping to capitalize on the higher demand for Uber rides there, she’s visited and stayed in Salt Lake for several days at a time this month to ferry riders to the grocery store, to Park City, home from parties and everywhere in between. Bywater said she’s driven over 1,000 miles so far and has earned more than $1,000. She hopes she’ll be able to work closer to home as local awareness of Uber grows.
Because drivers are responsible for their own gasoline, vehicle maintenance and insurance, Bywater said making money can be difficult in the Logan area when drivers don’t live right in town. For example, the first night she used the Uber app, Bywater waited 2 ½ hours before she was notified of a potential rider in Logan. She drove eight miles from Hyrum to meet him.
“I picked him up, and I drove from Center Street to 500 North,” she said. “The total in my pocket was a $3.00 ride.”
The rider then asked Bywater to wait for him for an hour. She agreed and earned another $3.00, but said the $6.00 total she was paid did not offset her travel expenses and time.
Jason Griffiths, another new Uber driver, has similar feelings. He says living in Richmond makes it difficult for him to accept rides because of the distance to Logan, but he does see Uber’s potential.
“I think as Logan continues to grow and as more drivers sign on,” he said, “there will be enough growth to make some money.”
Uber itself is growing quickly. Established in 2012, Uber is now a $1.5 billion company and is located in 529 major cities around the world. Scot Weaver, who lives in Wellsville, has used Uber on business in New York City, Seattle, North Carolina and even Australia. He and his wife used the service most recently while vacationing in San Francisco.
“I love that it’s easy, less expensive than a taxi and part of a new paradigm in crowd-everything,” he said. “You get in a taxi, you have no idea who is picking you up and if you forget something, good luck getting it back. With Uber, you know the person’s name, picture, license plate, and rating.”
While Weaver’s perspective may resonate in big cities, Jessy Barrett, manager of <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/CacheCab/”>Cache Cab</a>, says the opposite is true in Logan. Having operated locally for seven years, Cache Cab has three cabs and nine drivers, and the business is fully licensed and insured. Barrett says Cache Cab’s services are held to a higher standard than Uber’s, and the company is dedicated to customer service and contributing to the local economy.
“We do the best we can to keep our customers happy,” Barrett said, “and our number one priority is safety and timeliness. We’re a small local business, and we built our business from the ground up. Our drivers are more personable, and we’re really not that much more expensive.”
Barrett acknowledges Uber as a competitor, but she says consumers who choose Cache Cab have clear advantages beyond guaranteed licensing of drivers and full insurance coverage.
“We’re pet friendly,” she said, “and we offer flat rates. We accept both cash and cards, and we even make deliveries.”
Barrett also referenced Cache Cab’s contracts with medical insurance companies, hospitals and organizations like <a href=”http://capsa.org/en/”>CAPSA</a> to provide rides for people in need. Despite her concerns about Uber, Barrett feels like the population of Logan is large enough to accommodate more than one ride-for-hire service.
Bywater is similarly optimistic. Another smartphone-based ride hailing service, <a href=”https://www.lyft.com/”>Lyft</a>, is likewise expanding locally, and Bywater plans to drive for that company, too. What she enjoys most about her new job is interacting with her riders.
“The funnest part of this whole thing has been the people,” she said. “I have met people from all over the country, just all kinds of walks of life.”
Bywater makes a particular plug for the options services like Uber give people who have been drinking.
“A lot of people who are wanting to go to the bars have found Uber to be a very effective way to be responsible so they’re not tempted to drive drunk,” she said.
She also considers Uber beneficial for college students and commuters.
“It’s cheaper than maintaining a car and insurance,” she said, “and I’ve met a lot of people in Salt Lake who just use Uber all the time.”
With just a handful of Cache Valley drivers having registered so far, time will tell how quickly Uber catches on here.