August 16, 2017 11:04:24 AM
Uber, a mobile app-based ride-sharing company, will begin service in the Golden Triangle on Friday as a part of its expansion to 23 counties in east Mississippi and the Delta, the company announced on its website Tuesday.
Operations in the areas will begin at noon, the company announced.
The expansion will offer services in the greater Golden Triangle area, including Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Monroe, Webster, Winston and Choctaw counties. Noxubee County was not included on the company's list.
Uber first began operating in Mississippi in 2015, providing service in Jackson. It expanded operations to include the Biloxi, Gulfport, Oxford and Hattiesburg in July.
Mike Hainsey, executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, hailed the arrival of Uber.
"I'm happy to hear this," Hainsey said. "We have a limited taxi service in the Golden Triangle, so to get additional service like this is a plus. I think people are getting used to using alternative transportation like Uber and Lyft, so I think the timing is right."
Hainsey said he has had no contact with the company. The company will not use the airport as a hub or base of operation, he said.
"There aren't any contracts," he said. "We won't get any revenue from this. It will be the same as it is with taxi service."
Even so, Hainsey feels Uber will benefit travelers who arrive at the airport.
"I think it's a matter of convenience and having more options," he said. "When a businessman gets off the plane here at airport at 8 o'clock, all he has to do is go to the app on his phone and get a ride to wherever he's going. It makes traveling a little easier and that's always a good thing."
The arrival of Uber have area city officials scrambling to determine what policies or permits would be required of Uber drivers.
"We're going to have to take a look at that," Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said. "A taxi company has to have a business permit, but these drivers are subcontractors, so I don't know that we have anything that addresses this."
Jeff Turnage, city attorney for Columbus, said the city doesn't have an ordinances that address Uber drivers, either.
"I'm trying to read up on it, to see what others cities do, but right now I don't really have a recommendation," Turnage said. "I can't speak for the city council, but I couldn't imagine that anything would be done to prevent it until some ordinance has been adopted. I'm sure the council will want to give this some serious thought and come up with an ordinance that best addresses the situation. This is new to us, obviously. "
Uber is a technology-based transportation company, based in San Francisco, that connects travelers with drivers using their personal automobiles is promoted as an alternative to taxis and other forms of public transportation. Since its launch in 2012, Uber now operates in more than 700 cities in 83 countries.
Lyft, another app-based ride-sharing company which has emerged as Uber's biggest domestic competitor, currently operates in six Mississippi cities - Biloxi, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Oxford and Tupelo. Lyft, also based in San Francisco launched operations in 2012. It currently serves more than 300 U.S. cities and is currently planning to expand its services on an international basis.
Lyft has announced no plans for further expansion in Mississippi to date.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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