Uber, the app-based ride-sharing service, is making a significant service expansion starting today in the Florida Keys, Fort Myers, Sarasota/Bradenton, Ocala and several other markets statewide.
For months, the technology company had been recruiting Sarasota area drivers online through Facebook and other websites. The app launches throughout Southwest Florida and the Florida Keys starting noon Thursday.
Uber is already operating in major metro areas in Florida, such as Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and most recently, Orlando.
Recently, the company faced strong opposition from the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which has been citing and ticketing Uber drivers. Officials accuse Uber of operating a taxi service, and must be regulated like cab companies. Orlando has been addressing the same issue.
St. Petersburg is also seeking to change its city ordinances to allow ride sharing companies.
Unlike traditional taxis, anyone can be an Uber driver, as long as they are over 21, have a valid driver’s license and vehicle insurance. There are no special certifications of licenses. Uber also performs background and drivers’ vehicle record checks.
Users request rides through a smartphone app, which gives updates on driver distance, price, and estimated wait times.
A rider pays through the app, with saved credit card information. Prices run about 30 percent cheaper than taxi services.
According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Uber prices in the Sarasota-Bradenton market are $1.25 for the base fare and $1.20 per mile, with a minimum fare of $4. Wait time is $0.13 per minute.
In the Keys, the base fare is also $4, with $1.8 per mile and a minimum fare of $8. Wait time there is $.20 every minute. In Ocala, the prices are $2 base, $4 minimum and $1.80 per mile. There is a $1 “safe ride fee” and cancelled rides are charged $5.
Uber began service today in the following cities: