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Bellingham
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Uber gives rides to Bellingham residents

Uber now provides Western students a safe way to get home after a night out on the town, or helps if they just need a ride.

The company launched in Bellingham on Thursday, Nov. 12.

This comes after the city council passed regulations regarding ride shares on Sept. 28.

Illustration by Nicole Swift
Illustration by Nicole Swift

Prior to the city’s approval, companies like Uber were not included in Bellingham law, and therefore not allowed to operate. Now these companies are defined as people using their own vehicles to provide commercial rides for others, after connecting through a digital platform.

For about a year, Uber has been looking at Bellingham due to the amount of requests recieved from students and residents, said Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager of the Pacific Northwest.

Senior Savannah Rogers is excited about the company’s arrival and has used the service before in San Francisco and Seattle.

One reason she enjoyed the experience was because she could split the fare with her friends, she said. After riding in a group of five people, the cost per person was about $3, she said.

“It’s always been kind of difficult trying to figure out who pays, but Uber has that all set up for you,” Rogers said.

Rogers has used taxis to get home in the past, but said she would much rather use Uber. She likes that she sees who’s going to be driving her and how close they are to picking her up, instead of waiting a long time for a taxi, she said.

Because Uber is new in Bellingham, average wait times for a vehicle are unavailable, but in larger cities it is about three to four minutes, Steger said.

Taxis in Bellingham must have a background check and vehicle inspection, both performed by the city’s police department. Drivers for Uber must also complete these two tasks, although they’re screened independently. They do still need to meet city requirements.

Having multiple options for people to get rid of their own cars is one of Uber’s goals, Steger said. Another is to reduce the number of drunk drivers, especially in a city with a lot of students like Bellingham, she said.

The company has seen a correlation between its arrival in cities and a reduced number of these incidents, Steger said.

“Making sure people have a very easy option after a night of drinking, for them not to turn to their own vehicle but instead request a ride is, second-to-none, hugely important to us,” Steger said.

Senior Canaan Elliott has never used Uber, or a taxi for that matter, he said. Since turning 21, he is downtown much more frequently. Usually he walks, but Uber would be useful when it’s raining, he said.

“I think it’s a really good idea for this kind of atmosphere and this life that we live at college,” Elliott said.

Rides can be requested through the Uber app, which is available on Apple, Android and Windows devices. New users must sign up using a phone number, email address and a payment method.

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