Starting Thursday, Turlockers have a new, high-tech alternative to calling a cab.
The app-based ride service Uber has launched in Stanislaus County, offering rides from Turlock to Ripon at the touch of a smartphone. Stanislaus County is one of Uber’s first 100 markets worldwide.
“Modesto and Turlock are a big part of our plan to cover the majority of Northern California,” said Spencer Rinkus, Uber San Francisco Community Manager and a Turlock native. “… Both cities have downtown areas that are growing, and we think Uber will fill a need for safe, efficient and affordable rides.”
Uber is a smartphone app-based car service. Instead of calling a cab, riders simply download a free app, press a button, and request a ride.
“Technology is streamlining everything we do, but the process for getting a cab has been the same as long as they've been around,” Rinkus explained. “Riders can hail from the street, or call a phone number and hope someone shows up.Those rides generally need to be paid for with cash, and there isn't any real transparency on where your driver is at any given time.”
The Uber app uses GPS technology to track drivers at all time, showing when a driver will arrive. All payment is done in-app, eliminating the need for cash.
Rides cost $3, plus $2.20 per mile and 35 cents per minute. A $6 minimum fare applies.
According to Uber representatives the service is 20 percent cheaper than a taxi. As a special promotion for Uber’s launch in Stanislaus County passengers can save $20 off their first two rides, April 3 through April 14, using promo code Ride209.
Uber first launched in San Francisco in 2010. It was initially the target of legal action for operating either an unlicensed taxi or limousine service, but in September 2013 the California Public Utilities Commission created a new category of service called “Transportation Network Companies” allowing Uber to legally operate.
“We operate everywhere that we're allowed, and work with any government agency that has questions about how the business works,” Rinkus said.
Rinkus said he could not estimate how many drivers Uber will employ in Stanislaus County, but said they expect to be able to meet demand and scale up over time.
Interested persons can apply to become an Uber driver at http://t.uber.com/modesto. Drivers must be at least 23 years old, pass a background check, have a clean driving record, insurance coverage, and a four-door vehicle (no vans or pickups) from 2006 or newer.