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Taxi-like service is ‘Uber’ quick

Florida Gulf Coast University students now have an affordable means to travel around the Fort Myers and Naples area. The new mobile app Uber allows a consumer to request a ride from his or her phone and get picked up in a car of his or her choice.

FGCU senior Chelsea Guoynes first heard about the app on Twitter and decided to download it on her phone. The low prices of the fares impressed her.

“I think it is a really good idea, especially for college students because it is really affordable,” Guoynes said. “I looked at what it is from here [FGCU] to the airport and it costs around $5-10, which is way better than a taxi.”

Uber was founded in San Francisco in 2009. The company now serves more than 200 cities worldwide and came to the Fort Myers-Naples area this past December.

Carrie Kerekes, associate professor of economics, used the service when she was visiting friends in Atlanta. When she learned that the service was available to Fort Myers- Naples residents, she was thrilled.

The quality of the cars, the drivers and the quickness of the pickup impressed Kerekes. She also liked how the transaction was done through her phone, which leaves no opportunity for the driver to get shortchanged. The consumer also doesn’t have to worry about not getting the right amount of change back.

“It is safe because there is no cash involved,” Kerekes said. “There is additional safety for both the driver and the consumer. It’s just seamless. You get in and get out.”

FGCU student Kim Sump thinks that the introduction of Uber to the Fort Myers area is fitting for the college community.

“There are a lot of college students in Fort Myers and they may go out and drink,” Sump said. “It would be so much safer for them to call somebody or text somebody to drive them home.”

In addition to providing rides, Uber can also be a way for drivers to earn money. According to the Uber website, drivers have to go through a background check that screens county, federal and multi-state records that go back seven years. Uber also regularly checks the motor vehicle records of its employees.

Kerekes’ experience with the drivers was one of the reasons she enjoyed using Uber. She met one driver who was a musician and another one who had a career in movie production.

“Each time I got out of the car I was so excited,” Kerekes said. “They (the drivers) were just interesting people to talk to. I like to talk to cab drivers anyways and get their stories. They were all just really neat and very friendly.”

Uber markets itself as an affordable service, but there has been some controversy regarding the fares on busy nights of the year.

There was recent controversy about Uber’s “surge pricing” on New Year’s Eve. When there are a lot of people requesting a ride, the rates will increase to get more drivers to come out, according to Annie Lowrey’s article “Is Uber’s surge-pricing an example of high tech gouging” in The New York Times.

But for now, Uber seems like a service college students can afford to use to their benefit.

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