In my wallet, tucked away with my driver’s license and my daughters’ pictures, is a faded SuperShuttle card that I picked up ages ago in Baltimore.
The 1-800 number has come in handy on trips out of town when I’ve needed a ride from airports to hotels. The card doesn’t contain the company’s website, which suggests how long I’ve kept it.
This year, my partner Bette got me to ditch the card and use a new transportation option. We followed some friends from a Tampa, Fla., hotel to the Riverwalk for a stroll and to have lunch, and Uber made it possible.
In the five years since the San Francisco-based, ride-hailing company began, it has ridden technological innovations to more than 300 cities, including Kansas City, in 60 countries.
Unlike me, everyone elsehas a smartphone. Michele L. Watley calls my old cellphone “a wooden box.” It’s limited to phone calls, texting and picture taking.
Using her smartphone app, Bette hailed to the hotel an Uber vehicle that was big enough to accommodate her; Michele; Ron Horn; a Kansas City native; and me. That’s no small feat because Ron, a physician, is nearly 7 feet tall. The SUV Uber driver had retired from a financial industry job in Baltimore and moved to Florida. He started driving for Uber to be around people, give himself something to do and add to his retirement income.
The beauty about the Uber app is that once the car is called, we could tell how long it would take to arrive and track it on a map on Bette’s smartphone. Also, payment occurs digitally, via an account set up with Uber in advance. So the driver doesn’t have to keep money on hand, and neither do the passengers.
Uber is a convenient and competitive alternative to taxicabs and shuttle services, which in some cities aren’t as customer friendly and responsive as they should be. Uber is made for millennials and their high-tech, always wired lifestyle. We baby boomers get to take advantage of it, too.
Ours was a pleasant ride to the Tampa Riverwalk and a restaurant. We used Uber to get back to the hotel. Also this summer, Bette and I hailed Uber to get from the Salt Lake City, Utah, airport to a hotel.
That young driver worked as an engineer. He used his newer car to pick up extra money to be able to give his young children and spouse a better life.
In Salt Lake City, our friend Charlene Lui picked us up for lunch, and then we went to the Friendly Island Tongan Festival at Jordan Park sponsored by the National Tongan American Society. It included Pacific Island music, dancing and food.
Early the next morning, Bette hailed a car for a trip back to the airport and an early flight to Minneapolis. The transportation options expanded there to include the light rail Metro Transit from the airport to a downtown hotel, where we stayed. The tickets cost less than $2 each. The ride was comfortable even with both of us carrying luggage.
People got on and off throughout the nearly 12-stop ride into town. Some passengers had bicycles, which they placed in racks that were made to transport them safely. This is a mass transit option that the Kansas City area desperately needs.
Sometime in 2016, Kansas City’s streetcar will start running on a 2-mile track downtown. If it’s successful and our neighbors like it, then let’s hope people will vote to expand the system to eventually include light rail from downtown to Kansas City International Airport with spurs going to other parts of the metropolitan area.
By the time that happens, I’ll likely be a senior citizen on Social Security in our highway friendly town. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the many transportation options that other cities afford.
After attending the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Minneapolis, we hailed Uber for an early flight back to Kansas City, where my car waited in the satellite parking lot. It’s not the most efficient, competitive, cost-effective option for the trip back to our house. But for now, it’s the best Kansas City has to offer.