Uber launches its services in Champaign-Urbana

Uber Illinois General Manager Chris Taylor speaks with Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and other Uber supporters at Research Park Enterprise Works during the launch of Uberx services in Champaign-Urbana on Sunday.

By Jane Lee

There’s a new taxi service in town to rival the traditional yellow cab.

Uber, the app-based taxi service that has been around in Illinois since 2011, officially launched its uberX service for Champaign-Urbana on Sunday at an event held at Research Park’s Enterprise Works.

Uber Illinois Managing Director Chris Taylor, Governor Bruce Rauner and Champaign Mayor Don Gerard were among those present at the event.

“This was a wonderful event that recognizes Governor Rauner’s leadership in creating a great home for technology and renovation in Illinois, and also the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, for welcoming a new service in and creating a great home for innovation,” Taylor said.

Using the Uber app, riders can see available Uber cars in their area, including a profile of the driver showing a photo, a rating, the license plate number and car make and model. Upon arrival at his or her location, the rider is billed online through credit card transaction.

Uber currently operates within 280 major cities across the nation. Before Sunday, Uber services in Illinois were only operated in Chicago and Springfield. At noon on Sunday, the company added four new locations as official operating centers: Aurora, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana and Rockford. Uber provides five types of ride options for customers at varying prices, with uberX being the least expensive.

Taylor said the purpose of launching their service in Champaign-Urbana is to provide safe rides for people who want them.

“We’re growing incredibly rapidly, and that’s really fueled by the fact that we provide a service that people like and enjoy,” Taylor said.

Because the Champaign-Urbana community is heavily populated with students from the University, Taylor said Uber serves as an affordable ride service option.

“It’s going to be cheaper than a taxi in Champaign-Urbana,” Taylor said. “We priced out a sample fare, so from the Illini (Union) to the Champaign Amtrak station would be about seven bucks.”

According to a press release, more than 200 drivers have already passed Uber’s local, state and federal background checks to drive in the new Illinois service locations.

Mayor Gerard expressed his excitement for the new transportation contribution to Champaign and said the service would provide great public safety and commerce.

“It’s really a forward thinking 21st century option to transportation,” Gerard said. “I mean, Champaign really is a big town with big cities amenities, and this just adds to it.”

As liquor commissioner, Gerard said one of the biggest things he worries about in terms of public safety is drunk driving, and he believes services like Uber may help keep students safe.

Laura Frerichs, director of Research Park, said Uber would help show that using technology can help ease people’s everyday lives. To her, it’s a way to show off Champaign-Urbana as a tech-friendly destination.

“We are excited that Uber launched services here because as a micro urban community, having that type of service makes us feel like a big city and it’s important for our students and our visitors to be able to have something that they’re used to h aving in larger communities here in Urbana-Champaign as well,” Frerichs said.

Jane can be reached at [email protected].