By Kelly Youngblood
Do you live in the Champaign-Urbana area and need a ride somewhere? There’s an app for that.
Uber, an app-based on-demand car service and transportation network, officially began operating out of Champaign on Sunday, Feb. 15.
Now, rather than calling a taxi the next time you need a ride, you can tap the Uber app on your smartphone to find a driver to take you where you need to go.
You might end up riding with Dana Kennedy, a Champaign mom of two who is an Uber driver. Kennedy and her husband, Mike, own Kennedy Builders of Champaign.
Kennedy’s first day on the job was Sunday. She said her first pick-up request came from a University of Illinois physics graduate student at Willard Airport who lived a few blocks from campus.
“I was waiting for her when she got off the plane. She walked right up to the car and it was a $14.97 ride,” she said.
Kennedy says she first tried using the Uber service with a group of friends in Chicago Labor Day weekend. Kennedy said it “saved us a ton that weekend!”
Later, she decided to look into the possibility of working for the company. Uber offers flexible job opportunities for anyone who is at least 21 years old and has a four-door vehicle less than 10 years old.
A flexible schedule is one of the factors that interested Kennedy, who says her availability will vary based on what’s going on with her other job and family on any given day.
“I enjoy helping people and I’ve been my own boss a long time. I continue to be (my own boss) with Uber,” Kennedy said.
Uber is big business in major cities around the world, and the company has been valued at $40 billion. Here’s how Uber works:
- The app uses your phone’s GPS to find your location and connect you with the nearest available driver.
- No cash is ever exchanged — the credit card you put on file will be charged once you reach your destination. There is no place to tip, currently.
- You can see where drivers are on the Uber app so you know how far away they are and how long until you will be picked up.
- The app will give you a fare estimate on request. You can check local rates here.
- You enter the address or the name of your destination into the app. So you don’t have to talk to the driver if you don’t want to.
- After your trip, passengers can offer feedback about their drivers.
Kennedy said she plans to hand out Dove chocolate hearts to her passengers and maybe also share a joke or two, thanks to some material her children gave her.
Kennedy feels Uber is an important addition that’s needed in the Champaign-Urbana area.
“This service adds a level of safety and flexibility to living in our community,” she said.