Springfield City Council recently paved the way for ride-share companies to enter the local transportation market, and it’s creating a new point of competition on the city’s streets.
San Francisco-based Uber launched in Springfield on Nov. 17 – days after Springfield City Council’s decision to ease restrictions. Both Uber and fellow San Francisco-based ride-share company, Lyft, now hope the Missouri legislature will ease regulations on the state level in the next session.
For traditional cab companies, it might signal an adapt or die mentality. Michael Butrick, vice president of Springfield Yellow Cab Co., recognizes that.
“I know they are more technologically savvy than we are; we’re still more old school,” he said. “But we are hopefully going to be changing that in the near future.”
Butrick said the company is preparing to bridge the technology gap and move toward a phone application to stay competitive with Uber. But he’s run into a snag there.
“We are trying, but haven’t had any real progress, to get with somebody local,” Butrick said of his research for a computerized application and processing system. “We’ve been looking at companies all over the U.S.”
The cab company has operated in Springfield for 35 years, and Butrick credits regular clientele and corporate contracts with Drury University, CoxHealth, Ozarks Community Hospital and SeniorAge for allowing them to keep the lights on until they gain their footing in the changing marketplace.
Uber representatives did not respond to Springfield Business Journal’s requests for comment by deadline.
Lyft representative Mary Caroline Pruitt said the company plans to operate throughout Missouri if the regulatory environment changes. She did not respond to questions about Lyft’s retreat a couple years ago from the Missouri market.
As for pricing, SBJ conducted a rate comparison for travel between its 313 Park Central West office and the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World tourist draw.
According to Uber.com, the 3.2-mile ride would run $8-$11. Springfield Yellow Cab quoted the rate at about $10.
While cabs are subject to state and city regulation and cannot alter their rates without jumping through hoops, Butrick said his research of Uber suggests they raise their rates at peak times, called surge pricing, for instance during New Year’s Eve celebrations. But, in those cases, people may be receptive to paying more for a timely ride, he said.
WhatsTheFare.com is established to obtain fare estimates in various cities, but no data currently is available for Springfield.
Butrick said his company has not made any major changes, and business has remained steady.
“We’re an old-fashioned cab company,” he said. “We have roots here, and we’re hoping they are big and strong enough to keep us around.”
Uber has partnered with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce for its launch party at Hotel Vandivort and also with Big Brothers Big Sisters for the charity event, the Ozarks Beerfest, on Nov. 19. A code was provided which gave all new users $20 off their first ride.
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