Uber, Lyft off to slow start in rural areas

BUCKHANNON — Ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft began venturing into the Mountain State in 2016 following the passage of state legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and then governor Earl Ray Tomblin were the first to take an Uber ride.

More than a year after that, Uber and Lyft are available state wide, but Upshur County has been slow to jump on board.

Uber announced in August it had opened up access to drivers and riders across West Virginia.

“This area is a little more challenging because not everybody knows about it or would use it,”  Uber and Lyft driver Robert Manley said.

Rides are requested and fulfilled via the Uber and Lyft aps for smartphones.

Manley signed up about two months ago and said he was not the first driver for the area.

Manley knows of a couple other drivers locally but said they all find more business elsewhere.

“We all normally go to other towns to drive,” he said. “Most of the requests I get here are people who are in town visiting. I have yet to get one college student interested.”

Clarksburg has a little more demand than Buckhannon but Morgantown has even more, according to Manley.

“Morgantown will keep you hopping as long as you want to stay there,” he said. “A lot of the students don’t bring cars, many are from other countries where they are familiar with ride-sharing services. Then you have a lot of alums who come to town and they don’t want to drive in Morgantown.”

The thought of making some extra spending money  when it was convenient for him, appealed to Manley.

“If I just want to work a couple hours or a couple days a week, I can log on and drive,” he said. “A busy night in Morgantown can be a couple hundred bucks. In Buckhannon, not so much.”

Manley recently started a Facebook page called Buckhannon’s Uber/Lyft Driver to promote the business more in the area. The page has free ride credits for new users to Uber or Lyft and codes for Manley specifically.

“There seemed to be some discussion and some confusion on social media over whether this was available in this area, so I thought I would help clear that up,” he said. “It’s been around for a while, my daughter used it at WVU.”

He also wants to encourage more drivers to sign up.

Lyft took about a week and Uber took about two weeks to approve him as a driver.

There are some guidelines for the vehicle like having a four-door car with seats available for at least four people.

Uber and Lyft have built in safety precautions such as the payments are done electronically so the drivers do not have cash on them.

There are a few different ways the drivers can get paid such as having the money transferred to their bank account, periodically or cashing out through an express option. Uber even offers a debit card that the money can be transferred to and then used much like any other debit card.

The drivers decide when they want to work and will sign on letting riders know they are available in a specific area.

Then the driver’s picture along with a rating and description of vehicle and how long they have been with the program will be displayed.

“The rating system works both for the passenger and the driver,” he said. “If, for example, you get a bad driver and you never want to see that driver again, you give a low rating. That driver will no longer show up when you are looking for a driver.

“On the other hand, if the driver has a bad passenger, they can do the same thing and that driver and passenger will never be paired up again.”

Another built-in safety feature is communication.

“Once a rider requests a ride, then there is communication that is opened up within the app between the rider and the driver,” he said. “As long as the ride is still active, you can communicate back and forth within the app.”

Once the ride is over, that communication ends.

The drivers can agree to do short or longer trips.

For example, Manley was contacted by a truck driver who requested a ride to Kanawha City.

The rates are set by Uber and Lyft but Manley said that the rider can use the location and their destination to show long much it is going to cost.

Log on to www.uber.com or www.lyft.com to find out more about becoming a driver.

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