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Uber Continues to Bolster Options for the South and West Sides

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Uber's come a long way, fast. It officially started serving Chicago in fall 2011 with its black car service. The affordable UberX sprung up in the spring of 2013. Now, Uber (and other services like Lyft) is a lifesaver to many, and a source of frustration for a few that have to pay surge pricing. For others, there's still a dearth of willing drivers who will show up in certain areas. (For yet others, like the Uber driver threatened at knifepoint, it can be terrifying.) Last year, West Side ridership more than doubled, and the South Side is responsible for more than two million monthly rides. And while taxis may be notorious for not showing up or having broken credit card machines in certain places, Uber has gone on the offense to directly serve these same areas.

Andrew Macdonald, Uber regional general manager, said that "one out of every two Uber rides begins or ends in an underserved area." And that 54% of UberX trips begin and end in such neighborhoods. Over the summer, Uber held driver recruitment events to bring in 10,000 drivers. Thus far, they've hire over 5,000 drivers.

ChicagoInno reports that Ebonee Green, operations coordinator for Uber, is working on continuing efforts to bring drivers in and get them going. So far, it seems to be working, with 20% of their total drivership of 35,000 hailing from the South and West Sides. (Compare that number to the about 7,000 taxis in the city). Uber reports that 40% of its Chicago drivers are African American, 25% are Hispanic, and 30% are women.

Not everyone feels better off, as taxis continually call tostrike against Uber, most recently in October. But those moves may well drive more people into the cars of ride sharing services. While there are gray areas to work out, including benefits for drivers and ongoing safety, the ultimate deciding factor is the market--when there are more people taking rides where they want to go and when, then it's a move in the right direction.

· UMeet the Woman Who's Helping Increase Uber Drivers on Chicago's South and West Sides [ChicagoInno]
· Illinois Issues: How Uber And Lyft Are Catering To Communities Of Color [Peoria Public Radio]
· Uber Says It Has Hired More Than 5,000 New Drivers from South, West Sides [ABC7]
· Uber To Create 10,000 Driver Jobs on South, West Side Where Ridership Is Up [DNAinfo]
· All Uber coverage [Curbed Chicago]