Medford, Ore. — It’s official! Ride-sharing is here. Uber and Lyft started picking up passengers Friday. City leaders said even if you don’t use the ride-sharing services, you could benefit. People in the city can get a ride at anytime with just a push of a button.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Kevin Stine, Medford City Councilor.
“Four months ago, Uber came to Medford and said – hey, we’re looking into coming to southern Oregon,” Stine said.
It took months of city council meetings, study sessions, and public input.
“Eventually the city decided yes – we want Uber and Lyft and any other transportation network company to be allowed to operate in Medford,” Stine said.
Fast forward to December first – and both Uber and Lyft – have officially launched in the city of Medford.
“The response has been fantastic,” said Jon Isaacs, Uber’s public affairs manager in Oregon.
Isaacs said Uber already has more than 100 active drivers.
“I actually went on the website a couple months ago when I heard the rumors,” said Nate Olsen, Uber driver.
But when he went on Uber’s website to apply – it said the service wasn’t available in his city.
“I think when the city council approved it, I actually got a text message or an email that said that they were coming to town and I should finish my application,” Olsen said.
Friday, he gave a ceremonial first Uber ride with some of the public officials that made it all possible.
“The excitement for people who want to take advantage of the opportunity to earn extra money, giving other people rides,” Isaacs said.
And it’s not just the drivers showing a good turnout. Uber reports southern oregon has more than 5-thousand active riders.
“I took an Uber here. It took me four minutes for the guy to pick me up,” said Michelle Atkinson, one of Medford’s first Uber riders. “I was his first ride. So he’d never done Uber before and he was trying to figure out how it worked.”
Though it was a learning experience, she said she recommends it.
“We were both kind of figuring out how Uber worked at the same time,” Atkinson said.
The Medford Chamber of Commerce hopes having Uber and Lyft in the city will help local business.
It says, statistically, local businesses do better when there are more available transportation options.
“Small businesses that are around us right now, are going to benefit because people can take individual trips to the jewelry store, and to the shoe store, and to their favorite restaurant,”
Medford Chamber of Commerce said the Rogue Valley, especially, sees a large number of tourists throughout the year and many of them visit local wineries. It hopes drivers will utilize the ride-sharing companies as another way to get somewhere safely.
If you don’t have an Uber account yet, all you need is a smartphone and a credit card. From there, you can download Uber or Lyft from the app store.
If you already have the app, but for some reason, your app still says Uber is not available in your area. Uber said to update your phone software and it should take care of the issue.