Uber Picking Up Steam

DUNKIRK — It’s been a little more than seven months since Gov. Cuomo signed legislation to allow the use of ride-booking apps like Uber and Lyft in upstate New York and according to three polls conducted on Twitter and Facebook, area residents may not be using the app as much as their more urban neighbors, the majority that do are reporting positive results.

“(I’ve used Uber) in Buffalo, Lockport and, believe it or not, in Little Valley/Ellicottville,” replied Katie Knaak. “It is awesome!”

“We have used it twice at Buffalo airports,” wrote Joan Floccare on Facebook’s community page I Grew Up in Dunkirk/Fredonia. “They were courteous and prompt. And, I must add, a lot cheaper than a taxi by far.”

Rob Mignoli reported using Uber “about 50 times. Always positive.”

On that same thread, a concerned parent with a daughter about to attend college for the first time, asked how safe using Uber would be for her.

“It is very safe,” responded Knaak. “There are background checks on all drivers, plus Uber/Lyft track the drivers…when they pick up and drop off folks who order the ride and the route they take.”

Mollie Staley noted that an Uber driver in Dunkirk is a “Very courteous driver.”

Only one area Uber/Lyft driver responded to a request for an interview and did so under the condition that he remain anonymous.

He told said he became an Uber driver “to make some “play money.”

“I am doing okay at my full-time job, but just wanted some extra cash to spend. I enjoy it, meeting new people. Most of them like to talk; I like to talk, so I have interesting conversations.”

He mostly covers the Buffalo area and the south towns with an estimated 50 percent of his pickups being at bars and the other 50 percent from private homes.

Not surprising, given that the younger generations are more apt to use apps, the Uber driver said that most of his customers are in their 20’s or younger.

“I do get that married couple who are partying at a friend’s house and need to get home safe,” he said. “Time flies while I’m out there.”

For those considering being an Uber/Lyft driver, he said that “If you can handle driving in silence one trip, then having a car load of intoxicated people the next trip, you will do all right.”

The driver admitted to being reluctant at first “because of the unknown factors. But I think the app has features that deter (dangerous) things” because “drivers rate passengers and the passengers rate the drivers. You see the ratings before you decide if you want to pick up or ride with that person. Also, as a driver, (I) do not see the destination ahead of time … so it’s kind of an adventure.”

How has the Uber/Lyft market affected the taxi business?

According to Jason Durward, owner of Dunkirk’s A Cab Taxi: “Not at all. With our company, we have police background checks. We have licenses to operate.”

And, contradicting some of the Facebook responders, “They charge higher rates,” Durward said.

A Cab Taxi has been doing business for 20 years, and as with most businesses in this increasingly tech-savvy culture, adapting to what the digital world has to offer is vital to remain competitive.

“We’re implementing strategies like smartphone apps,” said Durward. “You can log in and request a cab from a certain place. It will speed up efficiency.”

The Twitter and Facebook polls asked, “If you have used Uber, was it a positive experience?”

The Twitter result: 88 percent answered “yes”; 12 percent answered “no.”

The Facebook result: 61 percent answered “yes”; 39 percent answered “no.”