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Ridesharing apps see slow growth on Oklahoma Christian campus

The Oklahoma Christian University community has yet to completely accept ridesharing as an alternative form of transportation, according to a recent Twitter poll conducted by the Talon.

In the poll, 64 percent of 53 respondents said they have never used Uber or Lyft—two of the most commonly used rideshare companies. Twenty-eight percent said they use one or both of the services only on rare occasions, while just eight percent said they hail rides on at least a monthly basis.

In search of extra spending money, senior Josh Hall said he applied to drive for Uber in the Oklahoma City area at the start of summer 2017. After sending in pictures of his vehicle and proof of a clean driving record, his application was accepted and he began picking up passengers. He said he would typically spend five to six hours per night in his pickup truck transporting fares, but would usually gross $50, not including gas and vehicle maintenance expenses.

Hall said the car dependency of the Oklahoma City area has made it a difficult market to make money in in the ridesharing business. He said most metro Uber drivers make decent money only when there is a major sporting event or concert happening locally. According to Uber, fare prices increase relative to the demand for drivers.

“There are more people applying to be an Uber driver in Oklahoma City than there are actual Uber riders,” Hall said. “The issue here is it’s so spread out, everyone has a car and there’s so much parking space. You might as well drive your own car and it will be more economical.”

In addition to financial worries, stories of sexual misconduct occurring during rides have been a cause for concern among some potential ridesharing customers. In July, Oklahoma state Sen. Bryce Marlatt reportedly kissed and groped a female Uber driver without consent while she was driving him through Oklahoma City. Marlatt was formally charged in September following a criminal investigation into the incident. In August, a 62-year-old male Uber driver in Tulsa was arrested on charges of first-degree rape after he allegedly took a blacked-out female passenger into his house and sexually assaulted her.

In a follow-up Twitter poll, only 26 percent of 35 respondents said they have at one point felt uncomfortable or unsafe while traveling with an Uber or Lyft driver.

Junior Blake Mayfield said he uses Lyft once or twice a month, usually to get to the airport or to a friend’s house on the other side of town. He said he has never had an uncomfortable experience and feels safe riding with Lyft because of the safety precautions they take before hiring drivers.

“A driver I talked to once on the way to the airport said they do a statewide background check, and I think they do a national one, too,” Mayfield said. “Before you get hired as a Lyft driver, you have to drive them around town to different locations so they can get a feel for how you drive. With Uber, you just sign a form, you send them pictures and you get approved.”

Uber and Lyft both received media criticism in April, when government background checks conducted by the state of Massachusetts deemed 8,000 drivers out of 70,000 to be unfit to drive. Among the 8,000 rejected drivers, 78 were deemed habitual traffic offenders and 51 were found to be sexual offenders. In a statement, Lyft said the state does not allow private companies to go back further than seven years when performing criminal background checks, which led to the oversight.

“Under Massachusetts law, Lyft’s commercial background check provider, like all consumer reporting agencies, is legally prevented from looking back further than seven years into driver applicants’ histories,” Lyft said. “The state does not face the same limitation, which likely explains why a small percentage of our drivers failed the state’s background check while passing ours.”

In response to several claims of misconduct occurring during rides, Uber announced earlier this month they would donate $5 million to prevent instances of sexual assault and domestic violence.

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