When Turlock native Spencer Rinkus moved to San Francisco he did not anticipate that he would eventually work for one of the most popular startups in the Bay Area: Uber. An application that individuals can download to their iPhone or Android devices, Uber connects riders with certified drivers that are near them, revolutionizing the transportation and cab services industry. After a small advertising startup at which Rinkus was working was acquired by Yahoo!, Rinkus was on the hunt for another position and found his way to Uber.
“When I was deciding where to go next, Uber was definitely at the top of the list. I’d been using the app to get around San Francisco for a couple years and really wanted to work on a product I loved,” said Rinkus.
Rinkus is now playing an integral role in bringing Uber services to the Central Valley as the company’s community manager. With Uber serving the areas of Turlock to Ripon, locals will have increased access to their favorite spots as the transportation application is set to launch on Thursday and Rinkus provided the full details:
Q. What is Uber?
A. "Uber is a smartphone application that lets you request a ride by pressing a button. The app connects riders with drivers using location data from your phone, and all rides are on-demand so there no need to pre-book a trip. Once connected, you’re able to track the driver’s progress as they come to you. Payment information is stored in the app, so you never need to carry cash. You get in and get out without opening your wallet, and rides are 20 percent cheaper than taxis in the area."
Q. In San Francisco and the Bay Area where startups are a dime a dozen, what makes Uber unique?
A. "You’re right about that — there are a million apps out here and there’s a new one pushed out pretty much every day. For the most part, though, a lot of them are just pixels on a screen that don’t really enhance your life. Uber makes the city accessible. Seeing people you never visit because they live across town, getting to the airport whenever you want without pre-booking a shuttle, going from a bar in the Mission District to a park in North Beach by pressing a button on your phone is an extremely powerful concept."
Q. Which areas does Uber currently serve?
A. "Uber initially launched in San Francisco, then quickly spread to major cities across the United States and internationally. The app is useful if it’s in the largest cities in the world, but becomes incredibly more appealing if you can request a ride nearly everywhere you travel. We launched Fresno in February, and think the Central Valley makes a lot of sense for the service. With the launch of Modesto, Turlock and the surrounding areas, we’re in over 80 cities globally."
Q. Why is Uber expanding to Modesto and what will it offer locals that they are not already receiving from traditional cab services?
A. "Cabs aren’t a huge part of lifestyle in Modesto or Turlock, but that might have to do with ease of access. Traditionally, in order to get a ride you either hail a car from the curbside, or call a number and hope someone shows up. With Uber, you know exactly if there are rides nearby and have total transparency on where your driver is. As demand increases and supply increases, you won’t have to wonder how you’ll get somewhere — you just open the app, request a ride, and a driver will be en route.
There are features built into the app that make using Uber especially helpful. If you’re riding with other people, there’s an option to split the fare evenly with everyone in the car. If someone is expecting you, you can send them your ETA and they can follow the progress of your trip."
Q. Is Uber affordable and how are rates calculated?
A. "In more established Uber cities, there are three vehicle types: UberBLACK, UberSUV and uberX. Modesto will be launching with just uberX — the low-cost Uber. Rates are 20 percent cheaper than taxis in the area and will are calculated by a base fare plus a charge for time and distance. Information about rates is available in the app by pressing down on the vehicle option, or online at uber.com/modesto. Fare estimates are available online and in the app, as well.
Rates are typically calculated as follows: $3 base fare + $2.20 per mile and $.35 per minute. $6 minimum fare."
Q. What should individuals do if they are interested in driving for Uber?
A. "Drivers must pass a background check, have a clean driving record, insurance coverage and a vehicle that meets the requirements to be on the system — a four-door vehicle (no vans or pickups) that’s from 2006 or newer.
If you’re interested in becoming an Uber driver, apply at http://t.uber.com/modesto."
Q. What should individuals do if they are interested in utilizing Uber?
A. "To use Uber, download the app through the android or iPhone app store. Once it’s on your phone, sign up through the app and enter your payment information. When you’ve finished the sign-up process, simply drop the pin at your location and request a ride. You’ll be notified when a driver has accepted your trip, and you’ll receive a message when they’ve arrived at your location.
For those new to Uber in the area, enter the promotion code “Ride209” in the promotions menu to get your first two rides free (up to $20 each) before April 14, 2014.
Also, [today] at 2 p.m. the mayor of Modesto will be the first Uber rider on the system before the Thursday launch. I’m excited for Uber to hit the Central Valley because I grew up in Turlock, I've seen drinking and driving be an issue there, and I think that's sometimes a function of a lack of options. I think once people get the hang of Uber and realize that getting a ride is actually super affordable, then we'll start to see really consistent use of the app."