MONTEREY, Calif. - "Yeah, it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," says Douglas McCorkle. It hasn't even been around for a decade, but ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft are big business, even in smaller areas like ours, where tourism is king.
McCorkle says, "They don't understand how the city's laid out so they might get a hotel down on Alvarado and decide they want to go to the Aquarium which is down here on Cannery Row and realize well I didn't rent a car, let's Uber. McCorkle has only been an Uber driver for a few months, but he's already hit five hundred rides, and he's got some stories.
"The woman had a little tiny infant, you know, with the razor sharp fingernails, and the baby is playing around and scratched her eyeball and so she couldn't see to drive. So, she got someone to watch her kids and then she got in the Uber and I drove her to the emergency room to have her eye treated," says McCorkle. When he isn't going to the emergency room or heading to the San Francisco airport, which he admits has only been ten rides out of five hundred, he's mostly waiting around popular bars where people often need a little help getting home. McCorkle says, "At night when they've been drinking, Uber is the best option, because they pull up the app and in two minutes we're there to pick them up." But it isn't the only option, and it's a sore subject for many taxi drivers.
Taxi driver, Vivek Bhatti, says, "Yeah, taxi industry, I am worried about it. I'm seeing it drop just because a lot of people prefer Uber and Lyft just because they're cheaper." He and others feel it's not a fair fight though, with different regulations for different drivers. Still, Bhatti made the choice to drive Taxis for a simple reason. Bhatti says, "The reason I chose taxi over Uber or Lyft was just the amount of per mile charge and the amount of money you make." It's his livelihood, as it is for many taxi drivers, and it's getting harder to maintain.
Bhatti says, "People come here for conferences, people come here to play golf obviously, you know we're still in, we're still in the business, but I don't see a long future." McCorkle says, "I feel like we are hurting the taxi industry. I feel like they're falling behind the times."
The convenience of an on demand pick up is a big draw for riders, and as long as they keep getting hailed, for Uber drivers as well. McCorkle says, "It works around my hours and I can pick up a little extra money here and there." He says, "I was not expecting that many (rides) at all. I've talked to other Uber drivers who never even got a hundred rides and gave up, so I'm not sure why I'm good at it, but I am."