Uber and Lyft to potentially come to Corvallis in the fall

An Uber vehicle parked on the side of the road near the Portland State University campus, awaiting a passenger that called it via the Uber phone app.

Petar Jeknic, News Contributor

By the start of fall classes, students may be able to use ride booking services—also known as ride sharing apps—to travel in Corvallis. Companies like Uber and Lyft could help students arrive home safely, get around town or make it to class on time if the City of Corvallis approves a change in the city code.

Ride booking companies use mobile apps to pair riders with drivers who contract with the company and use their own personal vehicles to take passengers to their destinations, according to Uber’s website.

Nathan Hambley, Uber spokesperson for the Pacific Northwest, said Uber plans to work with city officials, the Associated Students of Oregon State University and Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber to bring ride booking to Corvallis.

“Our hope is to launch service in Corvallis by the beginning of the OSU school year,” Hambley said in an email.

ASOSU has been leading an effort to introduce ride booking to campus for approximately a year, according to ASOSU President Simon Brundage.  

“ASOSU’s role in (this process) has been providing student testimony to the city council—myself included—and showing that students support a safe alternative to getting home,” Brundage said.

Barbara Bull is the Corvallis City Council representative for Ward 4, which surrounds campus. According to Bull, she would also like to see ride booking introduced by the fall. 

“We understand that there is interest, and so far we have only heard support from the community and we are not trying to slow it down. We’re working out details right now,” Bull said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out which rules to adopt for our community.”

According to Corvallis City Attorney Jim Brewer, the municipal code already has regulations regarding taxi companies that apply to ride booking services.  

“(Ride booking) services have business models that don’t easily comply with our current regulations regarding background checks and insurance for each driver, meters in the cars, fixed rates posted in the car, 24-hour dispatcher services, etc.,” Brewer said in an email. 

Ride booking companies like Uber have not been able to operate in Corvallis because of these requirements in the Corvallis City Code, which were put into place before ride booking even existed, according to Hambley.

“We’re expecting to work with Corvallis officials to propose changes to the city code designed to address the new ride sharing industry, which will enable us to operate in the city,” Hambley said via email.

Uber and ASOSU both recognized the need for an update to the Corvallis City Code in order to allow the company to operate in the city, according to Hambley.

“We provided the mayor with a copy of the new ordinance that was recently unanimously adopted by the Salem City Council,” Hambley said via email. 

Brundage has also been working directly with the public affairs director of Uber, Jon Isaacs, to work with the the City Council to move them towards introducing ride booking services to Corvallis. 

“It’s an effort we’ll be pursuing this summer to get ride sharing to Corvallis before students get here in the fall. If not the fall, than winter,” Brundage said.

Uber will provide customers with travel options for Beaver sporting events and opportunities for drivers to earn money, according to Hambley.

“For riders, and especially OSU students, the arrival of Uber in Corvallis will mean greater access to an affordable, reliable and safe transportation option during the day and at night,” Hambley said. 

Students at OSU can already use ASOSU’s SafeRide service when they need a safe way to get home. However, SafeRide cannot drop students off at commercial locations and it can become difficult for students to use at peak hours of operation—midnight to one in the morning—when the wait times can be as long as two hours, according to Brundage. 

“(Ride booking) provides more safe alternatives to students that will ultimately reduce wait times for SafeRide,” Brundage said.

Beyond convenience, ride booking can be a safe alternative to driving drunk says Janelle Lawrence, the executive director of Oregon Impact, a non-profit organization that advocates for safe driving practices and educates drivers on the influence of intoxicants.  

“It is a great option compared to taking the risk of driving while intoxicated,” Lawrence said in an email. “You could lose your life or take someone else’s.”

According to Lawrence, the best way to get home safely is to have a plan before going out and drinking. But for those who fail to make plans or lack a designated driver, ride booking can make a safe ride home easy to arrange.

“If you have a designated driver, great. If you don’t, have a ride share app already on your phone so your ride is easy to arrange,” Lawrence said via email.