Police and Taxi Owners Concerned After ‘Uber’ Posts Grand Rapids Job Ad

Posted at 9:30 PM, Jun 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-13 08:49:03-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 12, 2014) — The driving service called Uber is looking for drivers in West Michigan. The company has posted a job ad to hire in the Grand Rapids area.

The company is no stranger to controversy after being connected to assaults of passengers and international protests.

Karen Heyser has been running Calder City Taxi in Grand Rapids for two decades. Heyser said that the overhead costs of running a business that’s required to operate 24 hours are expensive. With Uber offering to connect people who need a ride with others willing to give them a lift, it’s an uneven playing field, she says.

“No, it’s not fair. It’s very expensive to operate legitimately, and the right way to operate a taxi cab company is a very expensive operation,” said Heyser.

It costs Heyser between $4,000 and $9,000 dollars per vehicle annually. She also pays for two licensed mechanics, vehicle repair parts, and a 24-hour dispatch center.

Heyser said that with the rising costs of taxi licenses in the city of Grand Rapids, it’s becoming harder to find drivers willing to front the cost.

“They are looking at $300 to license every year,” said Heyser. “We are the highest in the state of Michigan, in Grand Rapids. It’s made for a much harder time getting drivers to fill their cars,”

Grand Rapids Police Lieutenant Patrick Merrill said that he’s known of Uber’s existence for over a year, and he has his concerns over the safety of both passengers and drivers using the service.

Grand Rapids police said that law enforcement conducts background checks on all drivers who apply for a taxi license with the city, and makes sure the driver has the proper car insurance.

“If you take all of those things out of the mix, and now you really have a, kind of a wild west version of a taxi service,” said Lt. Merrill. “It’s almost like a Craigslist taxi.”

There is an ad from Uber Technologies posted to Career Builder. The requirements are simple: you must be at least 23 years old, have a four-door vehicle that is a model year 2005 or newer, proper registration and insurance. The ad doesn’t mention a background check by law enforcement, only one conducted by themselves, unlike cab drivers in Grand Rapids, where police conduct the background check.

“To be honest with you, people are desperate to get a car at night,” said Heyser. “They don’t care which cab they flag. They don’t care what company they are using, and I understand that. They are looking to get home. They aren’t going to be real particular about what car they are getting into.”

Even though Grand Rapids is listed as a city looking for drivers on Uber’s website, Grand Rapids is not listed as a Uber option.

The city clerk’s office said that they plan to research the company before taking any action to block the service.