Independent transport service is Uber-rated


By Carly Charles

An article published in Monday’s issue of the Daily Illini stated that the infamous transportation service, Uber, recently began services in Champaign-Urbana.

I, however, think the yuppie taxi cab alternative is a little, shall we say, uber-rated, dangerous, and moreover, completely unnecessary on a college campus. 

People seem to think that the newly implemented Uber services will be most helpful for Champaign-Urbana’s student population. 

However, due to the convenient, free transportation services already available to students, as well as the negative press Uber consistently receives, I believe its services are unnecessary on a college campus.

First things first, let’s get the facts straight: If you’re a University student reading this column, you’re likely already quite familiar with the surplus of transportation options available on campus, should you happen to find yourself in a little pickle that necessitates emergency transport. 

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus system is one of these options. With routes that range from Lincoln Square Mall, to Parkland College and right to the heart of campus, these buses cover just about everywhere a student would wish to travel during the school day and on weekends. 

The buses run during breaks and late into the night — the 5E/W Green, for example, runs from around 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. on weeknights, and has extended hours on weekends. Students bearing a University i-card may board the buses free of charge. 

One might protest that, despite having an extensive number of boarding locations and pick-up times, CUMTD buses can’t drop you right at your doorstep. This might be problematic if, say, it’s late Saturday night and a hypothetical University student finds himself far too impaired to walk three and a half blocks from the bus stop to his apartment.

SafeRides and SafeWalks are solutions to this predicament. The phone number for this service is listed on the backside of student i-cards, it’s available all night and enables student users to be dropped directly at their place of residence.

Now, I say these services are “free,” but, there’s a slight catch: Listed under undergraduate tuition fees is a category accounting for $2,500 of tuition. It’s called “Other expenses ***,” and if one reads the fine print, one will find that these mysterious “other expenses” account for, among other miscellaneous costs and services, transportation fees. 

So, if per academic year we pre-pay $2,500 in services that guarantee us the safe return of ourselves and our peers to our respective lodgings at all hours of the day and night, there isn’t any good reason why students should pay more for a ritzy, overrated cab service. 

Although I’m sure there are catches with regard to wait time and efficiency of the bus and SafeRides system, their coverage is guaranteed by your annual tuition fees. If money were no object, Uber would be a fine substitute. But my belief is that, to most University students, money is likely a coveted object. 

To be thorough in my research, I used the fare quote service available through Uber’s website. I plugged in coordinates typical of a University student’s Friday night: Red Lion to my slightly off-campus apartment. The estimated price was $6 to $8. 

The site also reads that in the event of “high demand,” prices will increase. At which time would demand be greater than on a freezing cold Friday night in February when the bars are closed and the Green St. McDonald’s can only hold so many students?

Beyond the monetary downside to Uber, there are also some negative aspects with regard to safety. As a concise example, a quick Google search of Uber revealed the unpleasant headline “Chicago police investigating rape allegation against Uber driver.”

Yes, drivers must undergo a background check, but background checks aren’t always enough to predict future behaviors. Furthermore, a December 2014 New York Times article claims that Uber “has fought against legislation requiring background checks as strong as those demanded of traditional taxis.” 

In Illinois specifically, former Governor Pat Quinn “vetoed a bill that would have forced Uber to strengthen those checks.” Currently, Uber does not incorporate fingerprint testing in their background checks, and relies primarily on publicly available information.

To put it in University applicable terms, if I’m a smallish, unarmed female student, alone in a strange car with an even stranger person is probably one of the last places I’d like to be in the dead of night. Why students would pay to put themselves in a potentially harmful — albeit posh — situation astounds me. 

I question the convenience, benefits and safety associated with an on-campus Uber service and, frankly, I would rather spend my precious $8 on a greasy burrito from Burrito King. Students ought to consider their economic and safety opportunity costs before seeking transport service through Uber. 

Carly is a junior in FAA. She can be reached at

[email protected]