It’s official: Uber is coming to the Quad-Cities, and by this afternoon, those in need of a lift can book one on the ride-hailing service’s smartphone app.
Mike White, general manager of Uber Iowa, who will be overseeing the company’s launch here, said on Monday that the enterprise is ready to “finally call the Quad-Cities home.”
"The Quad-Cities has always been a hub for transportation innovation,” White said. “From steamboats to advanced manufacturing, it happens here first, so we’re excited about continuing that tradition.”
Uber, which lets people book and pay for a private car service using the company’s free smartphone app, already has launched services in more than 100 cities across the country, including two other cities in Iowa — Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
Following the company’s 1 p.m. announcement at LeClaire Park in Davenport, dozens of driver partners will be ready to go, according to company spokespeople.
Uber spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin said the company has recruited — and will continue to recruit — drivers, who Uber refers to as “independent contractors,” not employees.
To qualify as a driver, an individual must have insurance and a four-door vehicle that’s less than 10 years old for starters. Before an Uber driver can hit the road, the company also runs background checks, which include searches on the National Sex Offender Registry, National Criminal Search and several databases used to flag suspected terrorists.
White said he’s excited to introduce a new way “for folks to earn extra money in their free time.”
Following the launch, White said the service initially will focus on the “core” metro Quad-Cities but will expand its reach to surrounding communities as the business grows. Fares for UberX, the brand being launched in the Quad-Cities, fluctuate based on demand.
News of the company’s arrival in town has some Quad-Citians — primarily millennials and young professionals — thrilled, and others — local transportation services — indifferent and not so excited about the extra competition.
Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said Uber couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
“It’s no secret that the Quad-City transportation structure is lacking,” he said. “Uber is going to fill a huge gap for people to get around in a cost-effective way.”
Max Addai, the owner of Davenport-based Max’s Cab & Transportation Co., said he’s not “afraid” of Uber.
“I’ve been doing this almost 30 years here, so it’s just like another cab company opening in town,” Addai said. “If you’re in any business, competition is part of it.”
Addai added that although cab companies in bigger cities may have issues with Uber, he doesn’t see that happening here.
“In bigger cities, it’s more difficult to get cabs,” he said. “In the Quad-Cities, people call cabs.”
Meanwhile, two other Quad-City transportation services have tried to lure more riders by partnering with a GPS-oriented app called Gata Hub, which allows people to book rides using their smartphone.
Two relatively new Davenport companies, Good To Go Taxi and Rave Luxury Transportation, use the app.
Mike McMahon, who opened Rave Luxury Transportation in February 2014, said he thinks the app could help Quad-City transportation companies compete against Uber.
“We’re dealing with Generation Y here, so once they understand that Gata is out there, it definitely shows there are other options that don’t have surge pricing,” said McMahon, whose company transports riders in luxury vehicles, including Lexus and Cadillac, and requires a $30 minimum fare.
According to its website, Gata Hub works only with “reputable” taxi fleets in cities that employ only insured and fully licensed drivers.
In April, the Iowa Senate killed legislation that would have created a statewide regulatory framework for ride-share companies, such as Uber. Among other things, the bill would have set required mandatory levels of insurance, background checks for drivers and online posting of their methods for calculating fares.
Carter said he predicts community members will take a liking to Uber once they understand how it works.
“Once people use it (Uber) a couple times, they’re going to get hooked,” he said.