By Hunter Drinkard
Could Lyft and Uber soon be available statewide? Some Birmingham organizations are hoping for just that.
Whether you’re a college student, a busy mom of three, or a working professional, chances are you’ve at least heard of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. These companies, which allow users to order a ride from a mobile app and be picked up within minutes, have become a popular transportation option in the Birmingham area. However, in many parts of the state, ridesharing companies have either not been allowed to operate or have been run off by harsh city regulations.
Soon, that could change.
Last week, several Birmingham organizations joined others from around the state in unveiling Ride for Alabama, a statewide coalition committed to bringing ridesharing to the entire state. The coalition announced its support for proposed bi-partisan legislation that would allow ridesharing companies to operate across Alabama.
The legislation, introduced by State Rep. David Faulker (R-Mountain Brook) and State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), is currently awaiting committee action.
Birmingham area organizations that have joined the coalition include TechBirmingham, the Birmingham Urban League, and the Villages of Mountain Brook.
Currently, 44 states have passed comprehensive ridesharing legislation. Deon Gordon, president of TechBirmingham, urged lawmakers to add Alabama to this list at the press conference on Thursday:
“Embracing innovative and forward-thinking technology platforms like Lyft and Uber will continue to move Alabama forward. The time has come for Alabama to become the 45th state to expand these vital transportation options to all.”
Supporters of the legislation proposed that ridesharing provides transportation options to everyone, including the elderly, those with low incomes, and those with disabilities. Additionally, they say that these companies create a significant number of jobs and will overall have a positive impact on the state economy.
Paris Topazi, a local Uber driver, said ridesharing is great for Alabama.
“For passengers, it gives reliable rides at a less expensive cost. The cab services here in Birmingham are just awful so I’ve learned that the general consensus is everyone is thrilled not to be forced into that monopoly anymore if they need a simple ride to the airport. For drivers like myself, it gives us the freedom of working whenever we want to and feeling like we’re our own boss to a certain extent – there aren’t many jobs like that out there…”
Topazi began driving for Uber about four months ago, after being laid off from a job in the corporate world. She drives full time and relies on Uber as her sole income. She hopes that soon, people across Alabama will be able to take advantage of the conveniences of ridesharing companies.
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