YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Uber is coming to the Youngstown area, according to the ride-hailing company.
Uber posted a job listing earlier this month looking for drivers. The company says service will launch at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“I can absolutely tell you that we heard Youngstown residents loud and clear and did our best to bring Uber here as soon as possible! We partner with thousands of Ohioans across the state to connect people with a convenient and reliable ride each and every day, and are excited about our expansion to Youngstown,” read an email from an Uber spokeswoman, Lauren Altmin.
Twyla Jones, of Youngstown, has been working as an Uber driver in Cleveland. She says the service, which is controlled through a smart phone app, is going to have a huge impact on the Valley.
“When you download that app, you’re actually seeing the car that’s coming to pick you up en route. You can see every turn that they make and you know when to expect them.”
Once the app user inputs their current location, destination and credit card info, the app tells them who their driver is and when they will arrive.
“You have a car that pulls up to your doorstep. You’re not going to be standing out on a corner waiting for a bus at God knows what time of the day or the night,” Jones said.
Uber’s coverage map includes all of Mahoning County and most of Trumbull, including the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna.
Scott Weamer with the Mahoning County OVI Task Force says it’s encouraging that people will have an alternative to driving, especially after a night out.
“We love to conduct a sobriety checkpoint and see people coming through in a taxi, people coming through with a designated driver. That’s people making good decisions.”
Youngstown City Event Coordinator Mike McGiffin says the number one complaint the city gets after hosting events downtown is that there isn’t enough parking. He’s hoping Uber will change that.
“Uber is going to eliminate that for a lot of people, so when we go to plan all of these events, be it Downtown Shutdown, Summer Festival of the Arts, Music Series or any of the other concerts at Covelli Centre, this opens up the alternatives for the people,” McGiffin said.
A website has been launched for services in Youngstown, although fare estimates were unavailable Wednesday. Uber said new users can take their first ride free (up to $15) to celebrate its Youngstown launch.
Users should download the Uber app to their smart phones from the App Store to create an account and enter promo code Youngstown16 in the app for the free ride, which is valid through August 23.
The company is also still looking for drivers.
State Representative John Boccieri applauded Uber’s arrival on Wednesday, saying, “Having Uber in Youngstown can mean a lot to various people in our community. Ride sharing for professional, personal or economic use makes sense…I think this service could mean that we see fewer drunk driving incidents and a lot more seniors being able to get to community functions and doctor’s appointments.”
Last year, the state passed HB237, which laid out requirements for transportation network companies, like Uber, and its drivers:
- Disclose its fare calculation method and provide estimated rates
- Require drivers to have photos on their profile, and their license number and name for the rider to see
- Provide a receipt for all services that include specified contents
- Conduct a background check on an applicant seeking to serve as a driver and renew driver history report for the person
- Drivers must have auto insurance
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of drugs or alcohol pertaining to drivers
- Maintain records of drivers and services; if a person has been convicted of certain crimes, they can’t be a driver
A First News investigation back in February found that the Mahoning Valley is the most-populated area in the country to never have Uber service.