Uber Gears Up for Mahoning Valley Launch Today

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Twyla Jones was busy Wednesday.

The Youngstown woman, a driver with the ride-sharing service Uber, started at 6 a.m. and spent the next eight hours shuttling people around Cleveland for the celebration of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship yesterday.

“There’s a lot going on. There’s over 2 million people here in Cleveland,” she said. She was planning to start another eight-hour shift at 11 p.m.

Jones will be able to pick up passengers closer to home starting today, when Uber launches in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. The service officially kicks off at 5 p.m.

“It’s been in the works for some time,” said Lauren Altmin, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. “We heard Youngstown residents loud and clear and did our best to bring Uber here as soon as possible.”

The service will provide a source of competition for area cab companies. A dispatcher at Independent Radio Taxi Inc. in Youngstown said the company wasn’t prepared to comment on the arrival of Uber.

Uber connects interested riders to drivers though a smartphone app. To create an account, passengers need an email address, phone number and valid credit card. “No cash changes hands. Every ride is billed by credit card,” Altmin said. Once the account is created, a customer can open the app, request a ride and the nearest available driver will pick the passenger up.

The minimum fare is $5.70. Fares include a $1.85 booking fee. Rates vary per market. “Our teams do market analysis and look at what would be most appropriate,” Altmin said.

Drivers undergo a background check that covers their criminal and driving history. They also must carry automobile insurance and meet minimum age and vehicle requirements as well as other criteria.

Uber was founded in 2009 and has since grown to providing ride-shares in 449 cities in 66 counties, according to the most recent numbers. The company is reported to be worth more than $60 billion.

Jones said her husband discovered Uber online “at a time when I really needed to have freedom in my job and Uber provided that.” She drives 40 to 50 hours per week and makes about $1,500 during that period, she said.

“It’s been life changing. You have the freedom to be able to drive when you want to drive,” she remarked.

In a statement issued by his office, state Rep. John Boccieri, D-59 Poland, applauded Uber’s Youngstown debut. In December Boccieri voted in favor of House Bill 237, which established initial regulatory guidelines on insurance requirements, fare calculations and other issues for the ride-sharing industry.

“Having Uber in Youngstown can mean a lot to various people in our community. Ride sharing for professional, personal or economic use makes sense,” Boccieri said. “I’ve used Uber to travel in other parts of the U.S. and I think this service could mean that we see fewer drunk driving incidents and a lot more seniors being able to get to community functions and doctor’s appointments.”

New users can enter the promotional code “Youngstown 16” into the app for a free first ride up to $15.

Jones definitely will be driving more for Uber in Youngstown but she intends to keep driving in Cleveland as well. “There’s a lot of events that go on in the Cleveland area,” she said.

Uber will launch locally with “dozens” of drivers today, but more are being sought, Altmin said. In addition to offering information for drivers on the Uber website, the company plans local question-and-answer sessions as well, she said.

Fortune, June 22, 2016: Here’s how much money Uber drivers make in 3 US cities

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