By Kaitlin Bain
Uber, an international ride-sharing company operating in Lubbock, is facing proposed regulations that have stirred fears Uber would either leave or cut its number of drivers because of possible additional fees.
City Councilwoman Karen Gibson will introduce the Uber regulations at the City Council meeting on Thursday, April 28. The proposal aims to place all ride services in Lubbock under one umbrella and apply the same rules and regulations to all of them.
Uber has already pulled out of other Texas cities, including Galveston, Corpus Christi and Midland. Fearing the same will happen in Lubbock, students and locals alike have voiced concerns about a potentially Uber-less Lubbock.
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Jennifer Giles, a speech, language and hearing sciences major from Houston, said she has used Uber when she was unable to drive herself.
“One night me and my friends were trying to do the responsible thing,” she said. “We knew we were going to be drinking, so we had one of my roommates who wasn’t going to be out partying drop us at a party and then she was going to pick us up.”
When Giles called her friend, the friend had fallen asleep and could not pick them up. The group ended up calling an Uber driver to take them to a different party and then take them home at the end of the night.
“Uber is basically there whenever you can’t rely on someone,” she said. “We couldn’t rely on our friend but we could rely on Uber.”
She said she has never felt unsafe riding with Uber and is comfortable having a driver who simply has a driver’s license and a background check.
If Uber left in Lubbock, however, she said she worries students would still go to parties and just pick the most sober friend to drive.
“To me, that fee and riding with someone new is worth not having someone drunk drive me home,” she said.
MADD, or Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, supports partners like Uber because they help people get home safely without drinking and driving, said Amanda Eldredge, a victim services specialist with MADD.
According to a MADD survey, 90 percent of people surveyed would recommend their friends take Uber instead of drinking and driving, and 79 percent said that since Uber has launched in their city, they are less worried about their friends drinking and driving. Further, 88 percent of those surveyed over the age of 21 said Uber has made it easier for them to avoid driving home drunk.
Further, 88 percent of those surveyed over the age of 21 said Uber has made it easier for them to avoid driving home after having too much to drink,
“Not having Uber in Lubbock could hinder opportunities for individuals to get home safely,” Eldredge said. “Lubbock is in a rural community so we don’t have as many options. Taxis’ hours may be limited, and we don’t have that many taxis available, and the bussing system doesn’t stay open all night long. Uber is the prime choice for us.”
Regardless of whether Uber stays, Eldredge said it is important for people to plan how they will get home before they start drinking because drunken decisions can have bad consequences.
In the long run, she said, abstaining from drunken driving is easier than avoiding getting pulled over.
“They should prioritize it to get home safe, to save their life and to save someone else’s life,” she said. “It’s going to save you money in the long run, and it’s going to save a life and save your life.”
Most late-night intoxicated riders are college students, said Zach Funes, an Uber driver and a Texas Tech student.
Funes, who began driving for Uber to make extra money, has enjoyed his time as a driver. He said he rarely has customers over the age of 24.
As a college student himself, he knows about other options for students to get home, such as the Safe Ride system and the taxi cabs in Lubbock.
“I’ve never known anyone my age that’s taken a cab,” he said. “But if it came down to the only option, I’m sure they would.”