Uber launches Rogue Valley service

The Rogue Valley isn't the last place in the country to embrace Uber, it may just seem that way to the ride-hailing service's 10,000 registered local users.

Jackson County joins more than 600 cities, and the majority of Oregon's population, with access to Uber on Friday. The ceremonial first ride is scheduled for 11 a.m. when an Uber driver wheels up to Vogel Plaza to pick up Kevin Stine and Clay Bearnson, who spearheaded Uber's adoption by the Medford City Council, and Medford/Jackson County Chamber President Brad Hicks.

The Uber app began operating in major cities in 2009, connecting riders with drivers approved by the company. No cash is involved in the transaction.

"It's accurate to say Medford is among the last cities in the country to get ride-sharing service," said Uber spokesman Jon Isaacs. "In a perfect world, we probably could have begun service earlier this year. When we start, over 10 percent of the city will have an active Uber account; we saw the same thing when we were working with the Salem City Council."

Local users will be transported by 100 drivers, Isaacs said.

Uber first rolled into Oregon earlier this year, when the Portland area granted access at the start of 2017. Bend-area service began in May, and Salem in June. The wait time in Bend and Salem was 5 to 10 minutes at the start, Isaacs said.

"We expect wait times to be a matter of minutes," he said. "Usually, ride times are longest at the beginning."

Although Uber can take people to Ashland, they won't be able to procure rides with the app from there. He said the Ashland City Council is working on ordinances that would allow Uber to pick up riders in town.

Oregon and Washington are among a handful states that haven't adopted blanket legislation allowing Uber, rival Lyft, and other services. A bill addressing ride-hailing services was introduced in the 2017 Oregon Legislature, but it died.

"We were disappointed they didn't act on the bill," Isaacs said.

Eugene is re-examining its local transportation ordinances, but remains the largest market in the state without access to ride-hailing services.

Medford changed its ordinances in October to permit the operation of transportation network companies .

"There was a time when Uber would just launch," Isaacs said. "We don't do that any more. In the early years, it was more like a fight, but it's a much more constructive, collaborative environment now. We feel very welcome in Medford, and the process was very positive."

Uber provides complementary service to public transportation, Stine said. "Ridesharing will provide our city with greatly desired transportation options at no cost to taxpayers."

Hicks said Uber's arrival will enhance the region's business and visitor options.

“The continued strength of our local economy depends on having a strong transportation system," he said. "Uber will provide an affordable, on-demand option that will make it easier for residents and visitors to access local businesses in the entire area. We hope the see the Ashland City Council take the same steps soon so Uber can serve all of Jackson county."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge. 

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