Lauren Korduner’s article regarding Laguna Beach entering into a pilot program with Uber to provide rides to seniors, – this needs closer scrutinizing before applauding the effort.
Uber, as many know, is the subject of numerous lawsuits, tightening regulations, protests, and in some cases, being banned from operating. I hope the Laguna Beach City Council has done their due diligence.
To be a “perk”, Uber must first make several fundamental changes to be truly usable to seniors. Never used Uber before? Bear in mind traditional Uber is a smartphone-based system, using an app. There is no telephone ride-ordering option. Using the app requires the senior be experienced and comfortable to install the app, trust online payments with credit card, navigate on the app with a steady finger on a small on-screen map, and ensure the cellphone has a well-charged battery. If things go wrong, problem resolution is through the Uber app, not telephone.
Uber’s service is time-sensitive. Current policy holds that if a customer takes longer than two minutes to walk to the waiting car, the driver may leave, and the senior is charged a cancel fee. Will Uber change this? Will drivers be trained to expect senior passengers in need of assistance to enter and exit the car?
With such hurdles, it remains to be seen whether Uber’s pilot program can really be of benefit. Have the City Council members used Uber themselves?
Richie Greenberg, San Francisco
The author is a frequent visitor to Laguna Beach