HOUSTON – There is now a new option for getting around town.
“Through Uber you have the ability to hit a button on your phone and get (a driver) to pull up in a matter of minutes,” said Uber spokesman Justin Kintz.
Uber and a similar ridesharing service called Lyft use apps and pre-screened drivers to pick up customers.
Uber will send an off-duty limo driver or a private person, who is simply using their own car, depending on how much you want to spend. Kintz said limo-level service cost more than a taxi would and private-citizen level service is the same or cheaper than a taxi, but more convenient.
Uber operates in about 70 cities and more than 20 countries. It wants to operate in Houston, but city leaders are not officially allowing that just yet. They say professional ridesharing violates regulations that exist for taxis and especially the minimum purchase rule for limos.
“If you want to go two blocks, 20 blocks, 20 miles or 200 miles, you have to pay at least $70,” said Chris Newport, of the city’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department.
To get around the city’s regulations, for now, the companies are offering their services at no charge to Houston customers. vSome limo companies say if outfits like Uber and Lyft are allowed to operate for profit in Houston, there will be nothing but trouble.
“Well, I think they’re shylocks,” said Joe Jordon, of the Houston Limo Operators Networking Group. “They can say whatever they want but once they’re active and approved they can charge you whatever they feel like, which could be ten times the cost of a taxi or it could be $8 if they want to try to freeze out the competition.”
Kintz said competition is good and commuters in other U.S. cities love their service. He also said all their drivers are screened.
“These drivers are vetted. They go through background checks, very strict county, state, federal background checks.”
Whether or not Houston is ready for Uber, the question might be is Uber ready for Houston? When the company spokesman tried to use his app while being interviewed by KHOU 11 News, no drivers were available.
“We’re beta-testing,” Kintz said. “We launched last night. We’re in the first 12 hours of this being here so after a couple of weeks or maybe a month, then there’s usually enough cars in the system.” His attorney got through however. Within minutes, a Mazda driven by a private citizen arrived.
Kintz said drivers, who work for Uber in major cities, make about $60,000 on average.
City Council has not scheduled a vote on the matter, but there will be a public briefing on the matter Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Houston City Hall.
For more information on the car services, visit: