NewsTech

Uber Rolls Into Bellingham, WA

There’s something subtly powerful about being able to request a ride in a sleek black sedan with a single button push on your smartphone. The experience seems akin to what a CEO might feel when summoning their company limo. Since 2009, Uber has been making that experience available to regular people around the globe through the Uber ride app. Starting in November, Uber will be bringing it to Bellingham as well. *Please see the note at the end of this article for an update regarding the planned expansion.

How It Works

ride request on white iphone

The basic function of Uber as a company is to provide a convenient connection between riders who want to avoid expensive taxis, and independent drivers looking to make more money. When Uber enters a city, they put out a call for driver applications. If a potential driver provides satisfactory background information and documentation, they are provided with a smartphone pre-loaded with the Uber app. The driver then becomes an independent contractor, making their own schedule, and driving their own vehicle.

The appeal for consumers is straightforward; Uber charges less than a taxi, is cash-free (you pay with your phone), allows you track your car by GPS before it picks you up, and gives you details on the driver and vehicle beforehand. Customers can also contact the driver en-route to their location, get a price quote before requesting a ride, and leave feedback on the trip via the app. The app even provides onboard fare splitting service, charging each rider equally, so long as everyone opts into that specific ride. It doesn’t hurt that the rides are usually pretty stylish as well. Uber has tiers of vehicles you can request, from everyday cars to luxury sedans.

Blowback

While the convenience and pricing of Uber’s service has brought the company exponential success, it hasn’t been without controversy. Competing businesses, especially traditional taxis, have brought lawsuits against Uber all over the world. According to a recent Forbes article, the company is currently facing litigation in Germany, Spain, India, Brazil, and Canada, as well as in several U.S. cities. The most common complaint is that the service is unregulated, granting Uber an unfair advantage and making it potentially more dangerous than traditional private transportation services.

Despite the legal conflicts, Uber isn’t having any problems finding investment capital. After raising fresh investment funds in June, the company was valued at $18.2 billion, making it the most valuable startup in the world after Facebook. Whether or not the value is accurate will likely come down to court decisions and whether or not Uber can compete with the taxi lobby. In the meantime, Wall Street has clearly put its faith in the startup.

The Local Scene

downtown bellingham, wa corner of Holly  and  Railroad
Uber coming to Bellingham could be a mixed bag as well. Hiring drivers will certainly grant a small uptick in local employment, and consumers will now have a cheaper alternative to local taxi services. If the app is successful enough in the local community to significantly impact the market for those services, however, Bellingham may have its own legal battles in the future. Whether the end result will be what’s best for Bellingham residents remains to be seen. So what do you think? Will Uber do well here in Bellingham? Or will regulation prevent this innovative company from disrupting a century-long industry? Let us know in the poll below.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an Uber driver, check out our event page for Bellingham Uber Onboarding. Further questions can be sent to partnersbellingham@uber.com

*Edit: Since this article was published, Uber has dialed back their plans to expand into Bellingham. The service is currently not operating here, although there has been no official statement on whether they plan to cancel their expansion into the region.

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias is a full-time contributor to Bellingham Business News, covering local business events, tech news, and advice for job seekers in the Bellingham area. He graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in History and Chinese Language & Cultural Studies, and has previously worked as a coordinator in Western’s Writing Center.

11 Comments

  1. Stephen Oberg
    December 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Dear Tobias Osterhaug-

    I presume since Uber is described as an $18 billion entity, that it is a public owned company?

    Could you please provide me with it’s stock symbol as I would like to invest in this firm.

    I have been a frequent business traveler for more than 30 years now and would like to invest in a firm that might provide a ride alternative to get around using some of the less than desirable cabs one has to ride in , in major cities in the US and Europe!

    Thanks in advance for your help in this regard.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Oberg

    Stephen Oberg, Ph.D.
    Renton, WA
    email : stephen_oberg@yahoo.com

  2. January 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Stephen!
    Sorry for getting back to you so late. Uber is not publicly traded at the moment, and it doesn’t seem like they’re planning to go public for a while. When they do go public, you’ll be able to read about it here though. Keep your eyes and ears open for updates!

  3. Diane Miller
    January 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Ubers plan to come to Bellingham seems to have come to a halt. Is Uber still planning on starting up here any time soon or have they changed their plans for Bellingham.

    Thanks
    Diane

  4. January 20, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Hey Diane,

    We haven’t had any word from Uber in a while, but it does seem like they backed off their initial timeframe for operating in Bellingham. I spoke with a local independent driver, and he indicated that they ran into legal hangups, as well as resistance from local taxi agencies. Time will tell if they decide to renew their efforts here.

  5. Sharon DeBruler
    January 30, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    The local taxi businesses need to understand that competition helps keep their business from becoming sleazy and unappealing. The taxi’s I’ve riden in have been dirty and the drivers unfriendly. A little competition is good. They need to remember that it is illegal to be a monopoly. Get it going so we can have a good clean ride.

  6. J Thornton
    July 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    What are you even talking about. There are lots of cab companies practically everywhere. There is no monopoly in the taxi business in Bellingham or just about anywhere else. Being the sole provider of taxi service because no one else wants to do it, doesn’t make you a legal “monopoly”, either. No law says there must be at least two companies in every industry. It’s when you actively PURSUE becoming a monopoly that the law starts kicking in.

  7. Brenda Schellenberg
    September 30, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Is there an update to Uber coming Bellingham? The taxis in your city are in the worst condition than I’ve ever seen. After taxi rides from the airport, I’ve been scratched up from cracked seats and often smell like the crud that sticks to me from the seat. One had non-functioning seat belts, had no tension to hold a person if they were in an accident. Once, I had to enter the car from one side only as the door I would normally use did not work. Safety violations? Plus I would think your city could loose visitor interest.

  8. Eric
    October 24, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I live in Bellingham and have driven for Lyft and Uber in Seattle over the past year. The feedback I get from passengers is that they love the apps! I have also taken rides as a passenger and the experience is far superior to any taxi ride. It is ultimately about providing customers the best product or service. I do support local businesses, however technology is going to change rapidly over the next several years. You can keep riding in a horse and buggy, or try one of those dang Model T’s. Nothing is stopping purple cab from making an app to compete.

    Uber is coming soon to Bellingham! Find me on social media to keep up with the latest inside news. #bellinghamuber

  9. Hannah Rose
    November 4, 2015 at 11:35 am

    There is no monopoly of taxi’s in Bellingham. Yellow WAS at one point but now for years there are other thriving companies and independent drivers in B’ham. Not all are rude or sleezy….If Uber comes in we will have to work with it, but we do have more than one option for taxis in town now, I know this as I am an independent driver who is friendly and offers competitive prices in a safe and clean taxi, and I am regulated by the city and I have a taxi licence issued at the Bellingham PD and City hall, I have a WA state business licence, pay taxes, and offer great costumer service. I am not alone, many cabbies here in town are wonderful and caring and want to get you home safe, and build a clientele by offering competitive rates, clean safe taxis, and friendly service. When (if) Uber arrives we will learn to work around or with it, but for now, support your local cabbies!!! We do appreciate you!!!! Taxi Hannah-Gypsie Cab

  10. Janet Riley
    November 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I do not appreciate getting frequent texts from you guys on my cell phone. I am not interested in Uber. Stop sending me texts.

  11. Marisa
    December 22, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Please!!!! Bring uber to Bellingham! I refuse to take taxis but I would absolutely take an uber. Just did last night in Seattle. We would love to have you!

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