Uber comes to the Upper Valley

by Sunpreet Singh | 2/24/17 2:15am

Getting around Hanover and the Upper Valley will now be easier for students and residents, as several new transportation services, including Uber, have recently arrived in town.

Uber has been operating in the Upper Valley area, including Hanover, for about a month now, Uber driver Dennis Adams Sr. said.

Adams said he has been working for Uber since they opened up in Burlington, Vermont in August last year. He added that he had to drive 90 miles from White River Junction, where he lives, to Burlington to find calls, as Uber did not service White River Junction.

However, three weeks ago, he was in his home when he received an Uber notification at 1:30 a.m. from a gentleman in Woodstock, Vermont looking for a ride to the Woodstock Inn.

Adams then drove the man half a mile for a $3 fare and has been getting calls around White River Junction and Hanover ever since.

Adams said that he has been getting more and more calls every week as the word spreads that Uber is now available. He added that the number of drivers has also gradually increased.

“We started off with three drivers,” Adams said. “We now have eight or nine and expect to have more as business grows and the word gets out about us.”

Fellow Uber driver Joy Tyo of Lebanon, New Hampshire, who also started working for Uber in the Upper Valley three weeks ago, said that she has served Dartmouth students seven times already, including two upperclassmen students who told her that “it was nice to be able to leave the Hanover bubble.”

She added that downtown Lebanon has been a hotspot for Uber so far, and that she has also transported a lot of graduate students to and from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Both Adams and Tyo said that they thought that Dartmouth students will find Uber useful for going shopping in the evenings and on weekends, as well as for making sure they have safe rides back to their dorms and apartments. Still, they both said that they have been getting more business from graduate students who have to go between DHMC and campus, rather than undergraduates.

Adams added that the Uber service is not 24/7 right now, because Uber is a part-time job for most drivers. However, he thinks the company will ultimately displace taxis and other transportation services in the Upper Valley because Uber drivers work as independent contractors and not employees, meaning that Uber does not have to maintain a fleet of cars or be open 24/7 like taxi services have to.

Uber drivers make most of their money from their fares, since Uber takes about a 20 percent commission on each ride, while taxi drivers make most of their money from tips, because the taxi fare goes to the taxi company, Adams said.

He added that Uber often has more competitive prices than taxi companies because Uber drivers use their own cars, whereas taxi companies have to pay for their cars, insurance, wages and other expenses.

Tyo said that many employees traveling to and from Hanover prefer to use taxis because they don’t want to park in Hanover, but they get frustrated waiting for taxis that can take hours to show up, if they do show up.

“Eventually Uber will take over any taxi service because it has an app that can be utilized by anyone anywhere,” Tyo said.

Robert Revells, the owner of local taxi company Big Yellow Taxi, bought the company two years ago. In total, it has been in business for over 20 years now, he said.

He said that he thinks the rise of Uber and transportation startups will hurt his business because of how much more he has to spend than them to stay in business.

“I personally don’t like Uber because they get away with things we are not allowed to,” he said. “I have to permit my drivers through local inspections and pay half a million on liability insurance, when Uber just has to pay for regular car insurance and pass regular state car inspections.”

Revells added that 20 to 30 percent of his business comes from the College, but that moving students from place to place has never been a big part of the business. He said that most of his business with the College is transporting people coming to visit the College, along with people traveling to places like hospitals and airports.

“I can’t stop them from coming in, but a lot of my business is regular customers so I have that to fall back on,” Revells said.

Along with Uber, other new transportation startups in the Upper Valley include Currier’s Courier and D.A.S.H.

In an interview, D.A.S.H. managing partner Elizabeth Barron-Oakes said that she started her business with two other managing partners on Jan. 30 of this year to provide transportation within the Upper Valley and to regional airports.

D.A.S.H. has received a lot of business through the Hanover Inn and currently has a contract with a Dartmouth student to provide transportation for travel to and from a tutoring job, Barron-Oakes said.

“A department in the College reached out to us, and we agreed that we are their company for the remainder of the student’s tutoring tenure,” she said.

Barron-Oakes added that the business has not otherwise had a lot of contact with students aside from transport back and forth to the airport. She said that three students are repeat customers for travel between the airports, train stations and their dorms, and that the Tuck School of Business also uses D.A.S.H.’s services regularly.

She said that while students currently do not use D.A.S.H. to do things like go to the grocery store or make a shopping trip, D.A.S.H. offers a discount on Dartmouth student and faculty rides to the Manchester Boston International airport.

Barron-Oakes also said that she thinks that Uber and the existing taxi companies will likely control student transportation, but that they lack the personal touch that D.A.S.H. provides.

Currier’s Courier came about in January in Newport, New Hampshire in response to drinking and driving accidents, owner Alec Currier said.

So far, the business has one van and has been transporting patients for the White River Junction VA Medical Center and serving local clientele in Newport, he said.

Currier added that he is currently working on acquiring two more vans and hopefully growing to serve Dartmouth by the end of this year.

“I would love to expand into Hanover and Dartmouth College, especially to help students get back to their dorms safely from fraternities and parties,” he said.