The ride-hailing service Uber has seen its presence grown significantly in Erie, PA since it arrived in the city in 2015, GoErie.com reports.
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The city does not have statistics available, but evidence suggests Erie residents have embraced the service. Sharon Scranton of Wesleyville for example, typically works twice a week and said she’s given more than 1,500 Uber rides.
Scranton works full time in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), but said she wanted a part-time job she could do on her days off, and still maintain her responsibilities as a single mother. She sometimes gets up early to drive customers to work or provides rides home for people after they’ve had a few drinks. She also drove through the snow after the historic storm during the holidays in 2017.
Uber drivers do have expenses to cover like gas and car insurance, but Scranton said after she deducted her expenses; she earned $11,000 in 2017. When asked if she’s uncomfortable being one of the only female drivers in the city, she said she doesn’t think about it. Instead, she takes comfort in knowing anyone who gets into her car is already registered with Uber. The company takes a 20 percent piece of each fare.
Erie was not the first city in the U.S. to offer Uber, but the Erie-based Erie Insurance is believed to be the first major insurance company in the country to insure customers who use their vehicle for a ride-sharing service starting in November 2015.
Jon Bloom, Erie Insurance vice president of personal lines believes if the company’s insurance sales are any indication, Uber will continue to grow. During the last six months, Erie Insurance’s ride-sharing insurance sales have increased approximately 50 percent in Pennsylvania. Bloom believes that might be partly because customers realize they have a gap in their coverage.
“There is a significant amount of (Uber rides) here, especially with the college students,” he told GoErie.com.
Local Uber driver Nicholas Verno confirmed that fact when he said that Penn State Behrend, the biggest and most remote of the three colleges in Erie is one of his biggest business sources. The others being Mercyhurst and Gannon universities. Verno also said he does business waiting to get a signal someone needs a driver when he parks by one of the downtown bars on the weekends or near UPMC Park after a SeaWolves game. He also found there’s demand for Uber drivers on Sunday morning so customers can go grocery shopping.
Meanwhile, traditional cab companies have changed, but are still there. Erie Yellow Cab Company general manager Mark McEnery said his fleet has decreased slightly and the amount of calls ahs gone down in recent years.
McEnery noted the decreased business is partly because of Uber, but a slowdown at GE Transportation and fewer flights at Erie International Airport have factored in to it as well. The company developed its own app and it has a few thousand users, but McEnery said traditional cab companies are having difficulty attracting college students.
Although McEnery recognizes traditional cabs are not the latest mode of ride-hailing service, he believes in the business model and the service his company offers.
“I am not saying anybody is good or bad, but we do have a comfort level with the people we send out there,” he told GoErie.com, explaining that they have been interviewed and determined to be a good fit to work with the public.
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