Anyone who has spent time in larger cities such as New York or Washington, D.C., knows how easy it is to get around. Either through public transportation, a cab, or a bikeshare, residents of larger cities usually have a good number of options when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B. In Stockton, if you want to get somewhere, taking your own car is almost always your only choice. But today, Stocktonians can now enjoy at least one convenience that had previously only been available to large metro areas, as private car service Uber is now open for business.
A private driver service made possible by smart phones, Uber has become a mainstay with young professionals in nearly every major city inside and outside the U.S. With Uber, residents have a new, more convenient way to get around if they are planning a fun night out and don’t want to drive. Using a smart phone app, riders can locate Uber drivers in their vicinity, pick the driver they want, and wait to be whisked away to their preferred destination. And there’s no fumbling around with credit cards or money. Payment — including the tip — is linked to your Uber account, so once you get to your final destination, all you have to do is get out.
“We’ve been interested in launching Stockton for a while now,” said spokesman Spencer Rinkus. “Uber is incredibly useful in large cities like San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, but what makes the app even more appealing is when you can request a ride literally everywhere you travel. We’re covering everywhere from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa on the coast, and cities in the Central Valley are a big part of our plan to cover all of Northern California.”
Uber has three levels of car services, starting with UberBLACK and UberSUV, which are more premium services that cost more to use. But according to Rinkus, Stockton will start out only with the company’s UberX feature, which is a much more affordable ridesharing service that allows anyone with a car, a license and insurance (and passing a background check) the ability to turn their personal ride into a taxi. In return, the drivers get a chunk of the profit. Rinkus says that there is never any shortage of drivers in the cities they have launched in, and Stockton should be no different. As the market in Stockton progresses, Uber could expand service to include all three car types.
But Uber is not without its critics. In some cities such as Dallas and Washington, D.C., there has been backlash from cab companies complaining that private car services should be regulated. In Seattle, the city voted to put a cap on the number of Uber drivers on the road at any given time.
There have also been questions surrounding liability, as drivers are technically not actually Uber employees. But in Stockton, there is no real taxi service, and it’s hard to see the city levying any restrictions on an innovative company that wants to set up shop in town.
“We’ve already seen an incredible reception from people in Stockton,” said Rinkus. “we don’t imagine there will be regulatory battles that we’ve faced in other cities. ”
As Stockton and the Central Valley looks to market themselves to companies and workers as a viable extension of Silicon Valley, the arrival of a hugely popular service like Uber goes a long way. And anything that gives Stocktonians more mobility and transportation choice has to be applauded. Hopefully, residents take advantage of this new, innovative way to get around town. Uber is betting we will.
“On-demand rides haven’t been an option in Stockton before,” said Rinkus. “We think once people get used to the concept it will really take off. We’re excited about the possibilities in Stockton, Modesto and all the other Central Valley cities.”
*The original article stated that there were “virtually no taxi services,” in Stockton. In reality, there are at least two licensed taxi services in the city: Yellow Cab/Stockton Service Cab and A A City Cabs Stockton.