In the wee hours of New Year’s morning, many revelers without a designated driver will likely be looking for a ride home. Many will turn to a taxi or lift from a ride-share driver as the safest bet.
“A taxi is a much safer way to get someone home who’s had too much to drink,” says Susan Whiddon, general manager at Little Rock Yellow Cab. “It protects the safety of the community.”
Although Yellow Cab’s 98 cars operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, they will likely be at full capacity Dec. 31 — it’s their busiest night of the year, Whiddon says.
A new transportation option this year is Uber, an app that connects local drivers and riders. The company began operating in central Arkansas in early November before the Little Rock Board of Directors’ approval, which wasn’t granted until later in the month.
“Things are going great for Uber in Little Rock, and it’s been a fast-growing city,” Billy Guernier, general manager for regional expansion at Uber, says in an emailed statement. “We have thousands of riders and dozens of driver partners, and look forward to continuing to grow the business.”
Although the exact number of Uber drivers and riders in central Arkansas was not available, local driver Mario Moreno of Sherwood estimates he’s driven about 150 people so far. He says he was one of the first drivers to come on board with Uber in the state, but he isn’t sure how many Uber drivers currently operate: more than 10, less than 50 is his best guess.
Once the Uber smartphone app is downloaded (via uber.com), potential riders plug in their location and destination and are given a time estimation for when they will be picked up. Users pay via credit card on the app and can even track the driver’s movements on their screens.
Moreno says Uber offers a personalized service, provides safe rides when people have had too much to drink and can help reduce DWIs.
Uber’s rates vary; however, during busy times, such as New Year’s Eve, a price surge goes into effect and rates may more than double. A local fare estimator is available on the company’s website.
Drivers provide the rides using their own vehicles and keep 80 percent of the fare but do not accept tips, Moreno says.
Whiddon says Yellow Cab’s rates are always the same and based on a meter: $5 for the first mile and $2 for each additional mile and each additional passenger. On Dec. 16, the Little Rock Board of Directors approved an ordinance eliminating the need for the board’s approval of taxi rates. The company can now change its fares with a 48-hour notice to the city manager and the city’s Fleet Services Department, rather than requiring board approval.
Yellow Cab is also touting its smartphone app, Taxi Hail, available on its website yellowcablr.com. The company also offers the Safe Ride Home program, a partnership with several local bars, where bar patrons are provided with free rides home. Some participating bars include Flying Saucer, Crush Wine Bar, Midtown Billiards, Bar Louie and Cajun’s Wharf.
The holidays are filled with parties and gatherings, many of which serve alcohol. While having a few drinks is part of many celebrations, getting behind the wheel of a car afterward is both dangerous and against the law. This time of year, law enforcement is out in force to ensure that streets are safe.