Mark Carrigan knew that driving for Uber would be a way to pick up some extra cash, but he saw a bigger opportunity than that.
He called driving for the ride-share company a way to "give back" — especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
"I see it as a way to get more drunk drivers off the road," Carrigan said.
He applied to be a "partner," as Uber refers to its drivers, during an event today hosted by the company's "green light operations" team. Held at the north Mellelo Coffee Roasters, the event provided interested or already-registered drivers a chance to connect face-to-face to ask questions or get signed up to drive.
The network is set to launch on Dec. 1 and will provide an additional transportation option to Rogue Valley residents. People will be able to use a smartphone app to request a ride from someone who lives in the area and works as an independent contractor with Uber. Convenience and cheaper prices than commercial taxis are two of the most common benefits touted by the company and its users.
Today's event was focused on drivers, however. Alexander Martin, who came to Medford from Myrtle Creek with his mother, Kim, said the job satisfies a longtime interest he's had in transportation work.
Although both of them are registered drivers already, his mother, he said, is a bit more hesitant to be driving strangers.
"She's just a little afraid to test the waters," he said. "I'm ready to cannonball on in there."
Uber's arrival in Medford, as is common with other cities where it operates, was met with some resistance. When the City Council considered an ordinance allowing ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, local cab drivers protested, saying 10 to 20 companies would go out of business as a result.
Councilor Kay Brooks, the lone dissenting vote on an ordinance passed in October, said at the time she was concerned that the company wouldn't be able to provide equal access to people with disabilities.
Kim Martin said people with disabilities, along with elderly people who can no longer drive, are exactly who she hopes will benefit from the ride-share's presence in the area. She and Alexander bought a new Chevy Equinox that she said has the space for a wheelchair.
"I see this as a way to help older people," she said. "And I'll be getting there soon!"
Those interested in signing up to be a driver can do so at www.uber.com. A background check across all 50 states, at least three years' driving experience and valid insurance are among the criteria to drive.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.