As incidents of crime involving Uber gain media attention, state officials are voicing concerns about the ride-share company’s lack of regulation. Yet, the University has not advised students against the service, and it remains a popular transportation option among Yalies.
In October, Quinnipiac University instituted a campus-wide ban on Uber because the service does not follow state taxi laws and regulations. Despite the ban, a Quinnipiac student leaving Yorkside Pizza was assaulted last month in a vehicle she thought was the Uber she had requested. Meanwhile, the state is making moves to regulate the service; the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee passed a bill last month setting regulatory standards for the company, and the bill currently awaits further legislative action. At Yale, however, administrators have not taken a definitive stance on the issue.
“We have not banned Uber, but we are learning more about how students use the service and what their experiences have been,” Yale’s deputy press secretary Karen Peart said in an email. Peart did not explain the steps that Yale has taken to understand students’ use of Uber.
In a News survey taken by 104 students, 78 said they have used Uber before at varying levels of regularity.
Quinnipiac University Public Safety Director David Barger said in an email to Quinnipiac students on March 23 that there have been “several recent incidents in which students have gotten into vehicles in the greater New Haven area, which they believed to be Uber cars when in fact, they were not.”
The frequency of these incidents occurring at Yale is unconfirmed by the Yale Police Department, which did not respond to a request for comment. Uber spokesman Matthew Wing said in an email that the application provides information about the details of any ordered car to ensure passenger safety.
“Riders are provided with the license plate, make and model of the vehicle that’s picking them up, as well as a photo of the driver’s face and a stock image of the vehicle he or she is driving for easy identification and a safe pickup during every Uber experience,” Wing said. “Riders also have the option to ‘Share your ETA’ with friends and family so they can track the rider’s progress while they’re in the vehicle.”
In the News survey, 23 respondents said they think Uber is a safer option than other taxi options.
Zein El Azzouni ’17 said she uses Uber regularly and has felt safe doing so. She added that even if the Yale administration were to police or ban Uber on campus, it would be nearly impossible to regulate its use because Yale encompasses parts of the city over which the University does not have jurisdiction.
Still, respondents listed safety concerns as less influential than overall convenience and price levels on their preference for Uber.
In March, legislators and representatives from Uber and taxi companies visited Hartford, Connecticut, for a public hearing about Uber’s impact on the Connecticut taxi market and how the company should be regulated. A few weeks later, the state Transportation Committee voted 31–0 in favor of a bill that details a list of standards that Uber must follow.
The bill, which categorizes Uber as a “transportation network company,” would require Uber and similar ride-sharing services to register annually with the Department of Transportation. Additionally, the bill details requirements for background checks that drivers must undergo.
John Morgan, associate vice president of public relations at Quinnipiac University, said in an email that the service will remain banned from the campus until it is regulated by state taxi laws.
Assistant professor of political science at Eitan Hersh — who gave a lecture this week about Uber in his “Information, Technology and Political Power” course — said he believes Uber has a sustainable business model and a “very strong incentive” to make sure it is a safe option for students.
“Uber’s clientele of upper-middle-class connected professionals is more powerful than the taxi industry,” Hersh said. “The taxi industry has done very little to gain the sympathies of its passengers. I think the traditional taxi industry is over.”
Uber was founded in 2009 and came to New Haven last April.