Uber may expand in Pullman

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City officials are working with Uber to negotiate terms for the transportation company to operate in Pullman.

DANIELLE CHIRIGUAYO | Evergreen Reporter

With one driver currently servicing the Pullman area, Uber is working with the City Council to expand its operations.

Another individual has applied to become a driver and is in the process of becoming certified, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said. Standing in the way between full coverage in Pullman is the background checks required for taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber.

What makes Pullman different from other cities with Uber is its requirement for drivers to have a taxi license, Alex Diaz, Uber territory manager, said.

“We are not a taxi service of any kind,” he said. “We are working together on regulations and ordinances that can allow us to operate under unique guidelines.”

City ordinance in Pullman requires taxi drivers to undergo a federal fingerprint-based background check. Uber only requires a social security based background check, Jenkins said. Representatives from Uber are working with the Pullman Police Department to meet halfway and agree on a way in which Uber can safely operate in town.

“We want to make sure we keep our community safe, that’s our priority,” Jenkins said. “We don’t feel that the social security background check is a good way at positively identifying someone … we want to know for sure who we’re talking about.”

Uber is attempting to persuade Pullman to change its city ordinance requiring the fingerprint-based background check, to the social security-based background check they usually use.

Jenkins said he plans to bring the issue to the Pullman City Council within the next few months, with his recommendation to bring the public into the discussion. He wants the Pullman community to make their opinions known and to make informed decisions.

Not everyone is excited for Uber’s expansion to Pullman, however. CEO of College Cabs, Zane Larsen, believes Uber’s arrival in town may not be as beneficial as many believe.

His reservations surround what he considers the questionable safety Uber provides its riders. Citing recent news articles about Uber drivers who have assaulted their riders, Larsen feels Uber is not the best option for students in Pullman.

“You could be hopping into a car with a stranger who isn’t certifiable, someone who has a record,” he said.

Drivers are responsible for the upkeep of their vehicles. Larsen is also concerned about the safety and accountability of an Uber driver’s vehicle during an average ride.

“We uphold our fleet’s maintenance very highly,” Larsen said. “There’s no overall car maintenance that Uber demands of their drivers.”

He is also concerned about the individuals who decide to drive with the company. Pullman has a small coverage area, and since Uber takes such a large percentage of the money made from a ride, drivers may not make much money, Larsen said.

“Not only are they going to screw businesses, they are going to screw themselves,” he said. “People would just be volunteering their life away.”

Diaz, however, is hopeful for the expansion to Pullman.

“We try our best to work together with riders and drivers, with safety staying on the top of our minds,” he said. “We work closely with local law enforcement, and we are here to provide a safe, reliable and affordable ride.”

“We try our best to work together with riders and drivers with safety staying on the top of our minds.”