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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 30, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Uber, from behind the wheel

Earlier this month, I wrote a column laying out my misgivings about Uber and other ride-sharing services, as well as the “sharing economy.” It provoked a passionate response from readers on both sides of the issue.

Uber drivers on duty are understandably reluctant to say much. But I did have a conversation with one that gives a driver’s perspective. I’m not using his name because he is not authorized to speak for the company.

He drives part-time. His full-time job is for a small consulting outfit. He has been in the training field since 1980 and hooked up with Uber to help put his children through college. He described the money as “OK.” Here’s a little more of what he had to say:

Yes, I use my own car. I’m driving 1 evening, maybe one weekend day a week, so I’m not driving all that much more to alert my insurance carrier. Since I work from home, I don’t commute, so my annual mileage is pretty low to start. As far as Uber driving, I’m paying for gas, maintenance, etc. I’m reimbursed some portion of the 520 toll. Not a huge burden.

I asked about his experience as a driver. Were clients friendly, scary…?

My experience has been 99 percent positive. I’ve met some really nice people. I had a couple headed for a Christmas Party that were in a HUGE fight when they got into the car, and were laughing with me by the time we got to the party. I’ve picked up one guy twice who admits to having taken more than 500 Uber trips. He lives downtown and doesn’t own a car. I’ve picked up single women who don’t blink at having a male Uber driver. My passenger rating is pretty high, so maybe it’s me? I’m just that good, right?
I’ll say, given the season, I’ve given rides to many people who were going to a Seahawks viewing party or a Christmas party or a family gathering who are doing the responsible thing by not driving after drinking. I appreciate that. I’ve got two kids I want safe on the roads.
Now, I don’t drive ‘after’ midnight, so that might change my experience, but so far, Jon, so good. I think Uber offers a good service. And re; getting a Partner License, it was not a slam dunk. I was really checked out, I felt. Of course, I’m not a felon, have no more than the usual moving violations over a lifetime, so maybe I am a pretty safe risk after all.
I was reading a story about Google and their driverless car development and they envision a world where car ownership is not longer the norm, a future where people call a driverless car, get taken to an appointment or an event and then call another car when they need a ride home. I can dig it, totally. I think the ‘sharing’ economy is not a bad thing. It kind of brings us closer as a community, wouldn’t you say? Instead of all of us in our separate cars, in the Uber example, we’re actually joining together for some part of a day and sharing stories or lives.

 

The driver admitted, “Uber’s not perfect, they’ve made mistakes, by all estimations.” Still, “I think they’ve got a good idea.”

If you’re new to this, I invite you to go back and read the original column, too.


 

Today’s Econ Haiku:

There’s no end in sight

For the boom in airliners

But you can’t flip them


 

Comments | More in Entrepreneurship | Topics: Sharing economy, Uber

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