Stand up. Speak Up. It’s your turn
I deeply respect the Board of Aldermen, but I’m very disappointed by the overarching attitude toward Über. I have used Über only once so far – it was an easy, quick, and pleasant experience.
During one of the many snow emergency parking bans this winter, my daughter and I wanted to visit a friend who lives on Country Club drive near the Hooksett Wal-Mart. During a parking ban, these apartment complexes don’t even have enough parking for their residents, let alone visitors. Our friends who live there will often choose to stay home all day during a snow emergency because, if they leave, they risk losing their parking spot and having nowhere to park when they get home!
I downloaded the Über app at home, where I have off-street parking. I signed up and was given an estimated cost to get to Country Club Drive, and of course was allowed to see this price before requesting the ride. I agreed to the price, and was shown a photo of both the vehicle and the driver, and was provided with his name.
I watched with amazement as a little car icon on my screen drove from the West Side near Putnam, crossed under the Granite Street overpass, and headed up Spruce to my house. The car lingered for a while at Spruce and Union. I recalled that intersection being pretty icy that night. He seemed to get unstuck, and continued to my house very slowly. He was being very careful, I assume.
When he picked us up, his car was very clean and didn’t have any scent. Music was playing quietly. We chatted the whole time during the long, slow drive through the snow to Country Club Drive. He spoke in somewhat broken English. He told me that he lives with his parents, and they are political refugees from Bhutan. He said he’s in college, and he takes requests for Über rides when he’s at home doing homework. He told me he makes $75-100 per day, it helps his family a whole lot, and it doesn’t get in the way of his studies. He told me that Über requires a large insurance policy for drivers, at the driver’s own expense, and also requires that vehicles be less than 10 years old. I’m sure there are other requirements, such as valid registration and inspection, but he didn’t bring that up. We talked a lot about the city. He said he’d seen me around before. I realized I was being driven around by a neighbor, albeit a neighbor living on the other side of the river. I felt connected to Manchester, and I thought, “This is really what ‘community’ is all about.”
When we got to Country Club Drive, I felt like I’d made a new friend. I asked him how to handle the completion of the transaction. He said I didn’t need to do anything, that Über will charge my card. I don’t know if I was supposed to tip him. I didn’t. Perhaps while being so dazzled by these new technologies and innovations, and my new friend, I forgot about social gestures. In retrospect, I realize how much safer a taxi driver can be if his payment happens over the Internet and he isn’t carrying any cash around.
Based on my only experience, I can see that Über is not some big, scary corporation moving in to destroy jobs and crush local businesses. Quite the contrary – this has enabled micro entrepreneurs. This helps people with a low income find a way to make the most of the resources they do have. This kid – a political refugee, a college student, a real person in our city, a Manchie living on the West Side – will be significantly worse off if the Board of Aldermen put too much pressure on Über. They won’t be running a big company out of the city – they’ll be running out the innovative technology that enables our neighbors to generate an income and strive for a better life.
Über creates jobs. In fact, Über turns any person with a vehicle into an entrepreneur. It is the eBay of taxis. So much wealth and prosperity can be created if Über continues to operate in our city. I hope the Board of Aldermen make the right decision, keeping the poorest in our city close to their hearts. In a city with so little parking during the winter, and in a city with a large population of low-income families, Über really does turn lemons into lemonade.
If you’re reading this, please sign up to drive for Über before it’s too late.
Hillsborough District 12
About the author: Amanda Bouldin is a single mother living in Manchester. She serves at Civic Action Director on the board of the NH Liberty Alliance and in 2011 founded Shire Sharing, a nonprofit that feeds the needy during Thanksgiving, to honor her late father. She was elected in 2014 as a state rep from Manchester’s Ward 5.
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