Last Monday, Springfield City Council unanimously passed the ride-sharing ordinance we have colloquially referred to as the “Uber bill.”
If you don’t travel outside the area much, you may not have had the opportunity to experience using a ride-sharing service such as Uber. My first experience was in Tampa, which has been using Uber for some time. While I was somewhat wary getting into a stranger’s car, after considerable thought, decided to give it a try, and did so several different times.
As an experienced traveler, I can tell you that my experiences with Uber have been universally positive. Using the Uber app on my smartphone, I can call for an Uber car, select from a number of drivers in my general vicinity, and track them on their way to pick me up, and, the ride has been significantly less expensive than other options. The wait to be picked up is usually less than 5 minutes — no more being stranded at a restaurant after a meal, or at a venue after a sporting event. And, one of the best parts to me is that it is a cashless transaction. You use your credit card when you book the ride, and you know in advance how much the ride will cost. Tips are not expected. As you pull up at your destination, you simply thank the driver and get out. I was amazed at how easy and convenient the entire experience was.
While I know not everyone will agree, here are three reasons, from my perspective as dean of a large business school, why I believe Uber will be good for Springfield:
First, it will create much-needed jobs, and importantly, jobs that are flexible and tailorable to a driver’s personal schedule. At City Council we heard from a disabled citizen who needed a job he could fit around his medical needs. A traditional job did not allow the flexibility he needed for this schedule. Driving for Uber would allow that flexibility, since Uber drivers simply turn on their software on their phone when they want to be available to pick up a rider. A single mother I know needs about $50 a month over her current expenses to make ends meet for her family. She could easily pick up that additional money through driving for Uber when it is convenient for her.
Second, Springfield is a college town with some 50,000 college students. I have heard from many college students who say Uber would be a lifesaver for them, as they cannot afford to own and maintain a car. We have many international students who are here for short-term study and are in need of transportation during their stay here. Recently, the College of Business hosted a visiting scholar from China, who was here to study for six months. She had to purchase and then sell a car for that six months in order to have adequate transportation at times conducive to her schedule. And, responsible college students need and want safe and reliable transportation after enjoying a social event.
Lastly, one of the most common questions I get from local business leaders is, “How can we get our talented college graduates to stay in Springfield, and make their homes and lives here and invest in our community with their time and talent?” After getting to know our business students quite well over the last five years, a consistent refrain I hear from them as they consider job opportunities is that they want to live in a progressive town. Having a ride-sharing service such as Uber is a signal to our college students, as well as the community in general, that we are forward-thinking and progressive.
Congratulations to our City Council members who worked so hard to make this happen. Springfield will be a better city for this move.
Stephanie M. Bryant, PhD is the dean and David D. Glass Leadership Chair of the Missouri State University College of Business.
This article appeared in the November 19th, 2016 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.