Uber ride service comes to the Lehigh Valley

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Uber, the app-based transportation network, has finally arrived in Bethlehem, adding to the array of transportation options for Lehigh students.

Uber is an app that serves as a taxi service. People request a car through the app, which will then arrive directly to where they are and take them to their destination. According to its website, Uber aims to “make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more businesses for drivers.”

“We were eyeing Lehigh Valley for quite some time before our launch and saw lots of interest from riders eager to use the Uber app to find a safe ride and from drivers who wanted to partner with us,” said Kaitlin Durkosh, a spokeswoman from Uber. “Being a technology company, we are able to see when people are downloading and opening the app in a particular location, and we saw thousands of people doing so in Lehigh Valley.”

Although Lehigh Transportation Services offers many free transportation systems, Uber differs in the sense that it is readily available at the click of a button on your cell phone and it takes you directly to your destination, without any additional stops.

Benjamin Schwartz, ’15, said he heard about Uber in Bethlehem through an email from the company saying that Uber was new in his area.

“My Uber experience at Lehigh was great,” Schwartz said. “I used it with my friend Rand on the first day they offered it and got two free rides. Our driver was a Lehigh graduate student trying to make some extra money. We asked him questions about the costs and benefits of being an Uber driver in Bethlehem. Since it was his first ride on this first day he didn’t have detailed answers for us but was optimistic about it.”

Bob Bruneio, manager of transportation services at Lehigh, said Uber operates as a freelance taxi company, which has many dangers and drawbacks. Lehigh’s transportation services prioritizes providing the campus with safe, free and sustainable transportation options.

For students looking for a car service to take them directly to their destination, Lehigh offers Enterprise CarShare, which is available for students who would like to rent a car by the hour. Currently, there are five Enterprise CarShare cars on campus.

“It’s safe, affordable and can be reserved in advance,” Bruneio said.

Bruneio said that Lehigh has also just launched a new form of transportation service called Zimride, which allows students to carpool with other students and is also available to faculty and staff.

He said that Zimride is safe because it’s a closed network and can only be accessed with a valid Lehigh username and password. It’s a free service, although the driver may ask the rider to chip in for gas.

“Zimride is a means of connecting people in the Lehigh community who want rides with people who need rides in the same locations,” Bruneio said.

Kit Howley, ’15, said she uses Uber all the time at home and she is excited to have it in Bethlehem.

“In the past, my friends and I have used Lehigh Transportation Services and we’ve never had great experiences,” Howley said. “I definitely feel more comfortable taking an Uber, except the last time I tried to use it here the app said there were no cars available. Maybe they weren’t prepared for the high demand.”

Bruneio said that despite Uber’s arrival in Bethlehem, Lehigh’s transportation services will continue operating as it always has.

“We will continue to provide the campus community with safe, reliable, sustainable, and – in most cases – free transportation options,” Bruneio said.

Schwartz said Uber is a great way to go to the North Side or Promenade for dinner and drinks and not having to worry about driving home.

“I would definitely take it again,” Schwartz said.

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