In an effort to reduce drunk driving, UCSB alum Eric Gungon and a team of other UCSB students are promoting a nationwide luxury taxi service called Uber, which includes an app for easy appointment-making.
The app includes a list of cities and serves customers in over 55 cities in 22 countries worldwide, with the company making an appearance at major international events like the Cannes Film Festival and the South by Southwest music festival. Founder of UCSBtutors.com and Sbpartyscene.com, Gungon, said Uber offers more affordable services than local cab companies in the Santa Barbara area. With Uber, students can get home safely after a night of partying, eliminating the threat of potential drunk driving incidents, he said.
“A big ongoing problem has always been drinking and driving,” Gungon said. “It’s one of the biggest safety concerns, and I believe that it’s mostly caused by financial constraints. Forty dollars for a taxi ride is pretty expensive.”
Uber services hold a smaller price tag than other taxis since it includes a flat rate of $25 for a ride from Isla Vista to downtown Santa Barbara — the most common route for UCSB partygoers. Uber allows up to four people to ride in the same car and share the bill, bringing the cost of the trip to a mere $6.25 per person. In accordance to the company’s goal of providing affordable transportation, drivers are not even authorized to accept tips.
“I believe the free and cheaper rides will help lower drinking and driving,” Gungon said. “There is no excuse to drink and drive when you can get a free ride.”
Uber’s rides are also safer, according to Gungon, since the company requires its drivers to go through a thorough screening process.
“You can see where the driver is coming from, and the name and picture of the driver,” he said. “They’re all registered with the Uber corporate office and have a background check. You can even write a review after the ride.”
According to first-year undeclared major and Uber representative Camille Smith, Uber rides are a highly enjoyable experience despite the low cost, allowing riders to play their own music, fix temperature, roll down windows and ultimately make themselves feel comfortable and safe on their way home.
“The funniest thing is, although it’s cheaper than a taxi, the experience feels more expensive,” Smith said. “All the cars are clean and new, and the drivers are incredibly friendly.”
Smith said another major benefit of riding with Uber is that customers do not have to pay the driver immediately after the ride.
“There’s no worry about having enough cash to pay [the driver] or if [the driver] accepts credit cards because your information is stored in your Uber account,” Smith said. “It’s a lot like an iTunes account. There’s no hidden fees or monthly charges. You only get charged if you use the service.”
Brooke Scher, a fourth-year sociology major and Uber representative, said the company’s Smartphone application adds to the convenience of the service.
“At the tap of a button on their Smartphone, students can now use Uber to get to downtown Santa Barbara, the train station, the airport, and more,” Scher said.
Students interested in utilizing Uber’s services can sign up at www.uber.com and download the corresponding Uber smartphone application. According to Gungon, Uber offers free rides typically costing up to $25 to students who sign up with one of the following promotional codes: SBPS, BROOKE and YouSeeSB.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of December 5, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.