Why aren't Uber and Lyft in Northern Michigan?

UpNorthLive photo.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mi (WPBN/WGTU) -- Ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft allow users to request a ride with a few simple clicks on their smart phone. The convenience has caused these apps to explode in popularity across the country and in cities downstate.

In fact, 527 cities throughout the world have access to Uber, however none of those cities are located in northern Michigan.

"The goal of Uber is to be in every zip code in the US, so Traverse City, MI is on the road map," said Uber Public Affairs Associate Charity Jackson. "We don’t have a firm timeline yet."

“I think it would be fantastic," said Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette. "I think the more transportation options that you provide people the better.”

While Marentette has been in Traverse City for 17 years, he says he has had great experiences using Uber and Lyft in other cities.

“I've personally used Uber and Lyft in cities I've traveled to," Marentette said. "I think its very convenient, and I think it's a great option for people.”

On the flip side, Doug Dornbos is the owner of Cherry Capital Cab, and feels it would be very tough for ride sharing services to to operate in northern Michigan, especially at the same prices they use in bigger cities.

“It’s hard here to not have half or more of your miles be without a passenger," said Dornbos. "Someone has to pay for that.”

However, during certain time periods of the year, the exact opposite happens.

“For instance," described Dornbos. "The final night of Cherry Festival when the fireworks get done and there’s a lot of people in town, both local and tourists that need a cab, it’s hard to service all the demand that night."

Due to a new law the state of Michigan passed in December, taxis, Uber and Lyft would now all fall under the same regulation, which will be decided at the State level.

“The state of Michigan has now passed a law that disallows cities from regulating taxi cabs or any vehicle that’s for hire for a fare,” said Marentette.

“The fact that everyone will fall under some regulation seems to level the playing field a bit," said Dornbos. "It’s good in that way.”

While there is currently no timeline as to when any ride sharing apps could come to Traverse City, Dornbos and others expect it's only a matter of time.

"Do I think they’ll ever be here someday?" Dornbos repeated out loud. "I would imagine they’ll get their algorithm figured out and they’ll have an algorithm for small towns.”

“I would love to see it here," said Marentette. "Whether or not we could make it work, that would remain to be seen but we would be willing to work to support them.”

In response to the new law in Michigan which goes in effect on March 21, the Traverse City Council is expected to repeal all of their taxi cab ordinances, which Marentette says is simply housekeeping due to the new Michigan law.

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