Ever since Montana Senate Bill 396 passed in May, Uber has had the opportunity to open its doors in Montana, and to great anticipation. The service operates through an app that allows users to request rides from nearby Uber drivers, who act as independently contracted taxi drivers through the service.
Uber is going to be a welcomed guest in Bozeman because it will benefit almost everyone involved at first glance. Drivers get paid 80 percent commission, which is more than they would make at a taxi service. Taxi services in town will notice this competition, and be forced to improve their own business to keep up. Consumers benefit from the convenience of Uber, the ability to have options about which service to use and the competition creating a better experience for whichever service they choose. On paper, it is truly a triumph of capitalism.
However, Uber does have a sketchy history. With everything from hiring drivers with histories of reckless road behavior to threatening journalists who question their practices, it is fair to say they have skeletons tumbling out of the closet. This makes it pretty clear why it was such a weighty decision to allow such a company to come to Bozeman.
The problem is that it is a necessary service in this town. Montana is cold, the bar scene is hot, buses are free but overcrowded at 2 a.m., and taxis are not incredibly reliable in town. Overall, it will be beneficial to this city to have this added service. It is likely the amount of DUIs handed out in the winter will go down with an extra service like Uber available to people, which hopefully will make the population safer.
People have to remember who they are giving money to when they use a service like this, and acknowledge that the company does not have a clean record. Shopping at Walmart is cheap and convenient, but consumers are giving money to a store that tries to keep its employees from getting benefits and intentionally undermines local businesses. The fact that Uber has fought so hard not to consider its drivers employees and the many lawsuits pertaining to its practices should be taken into account when you use this company. It is good to have Uber as an option, but we should not pretend it is the be-all-end-all of ride services, because that might lead us down a dangerous track.