Jackson County

Ocean Springs is talking Uber

MCTLimousine driver Florian Bucea checks his Uber service in Chicago in 2013. Ocean Springs leaders are interested at looking into the service for their city.
MCTLimousine driver Florian Bucea checks his Uber service in Chicago in 2013. Ocean Springs leaders are interested at looking into the service for their city. MCT

OCEAN SPRINGS -- The mayor had an Uber experience in Savannah, Ga., recently, and now she wants the city to consider courting the service.

It's on the agenda for Tuesday night's Board of Aldermen meeting and two aldermen are already interested in holding the discussion.

Matt McDonnell says he'd like to see the Coast embrace an alternative service like Uber and Alderman Jerry Dalgo says he's for anything that would make the city's nightlife safer.

"There are little to no services for people who are drinking and want to catch a taxi home from downtown Ocean Springs," Dalgo said.

The first thing that comes to mind, however, is the issue last year in Harrison County, where the Motor Vehicle for Hire Authority dictated so many restrictions on the service, it pulled out. Would they allow Uber cars to enter Biloxi, Gulfport or D'Iberville?

Uber is the company sweeping the nation that allows users to request and pay for a ride using a smartphone app. Uber operates in Mobile, New Orleans and Jackson. People think it's only a matter of time for the Coast.

The service does background checks and insures its drivers, who are often average people looking to pick up extra money working part time.

Mayor Connie Moran was very impressed with her experience and how interactive and web-based Uber is.

"I'd like to bring it up here," she said. "I think it would be popular, an economic choice."

Unlike taxi services, rides are called with an app. The customer is given a description of the car and driver and when they would be arriving. A cost estimate is offered before the customer pays with a credit card, and 80 percent of the fee goes to the driver.

At least that was the mayor's experience. She also appreciated that customers rated their drivers.

In Savannah, she learned it was a popular job for off-duty police officers. One of her Uber drivers was a medical tech moonlighting.

"The cars were clean, the drivers were friendly, and there was no cash," she said, all things she saw as a plus.

"In Ocean Springs, there are a lot of restaurants and nightlife and few taxis," she said. "This is a good option."

She said taxis in the city take a while to respond and are expensive.

Uber offers more choice, she said, competition and economic freedom.

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