Lyft, Uber close to offering service in Decatur

Nov 22, 2017

From The Decatur Daily
by Bayne Hughes

Lyft and Uber soon could be operating in Decatur.

The City Council held a first reading on a vehicles-for-hire certificate with Lyft on Monday, and the company could begin operating in Decatur with approval in two weeks.

City officials said Uber also has applied for a certificate, so both companies could be operating in Decatur by the end of the year.

Wally Terry, city director of development, said the addition of the two nationally known transportation companies will provide Decatur “with another consistent source of mobility.”

Both companies hire drivers as independent contractors who use their personal vehicles to provide rides for paying customers. Rides are booked through smartphone apps or the companies’ websites.

Decatur recently passed the same vehicles-for-hire ordinance that Huntsville passed last year, which Terry said could help Decatur.

“I expect many of the same drivers will drive in both cities,” Terry said. “If we were standalone, we would have more trouble (getting started), but Huntsville and Decatur together would put us on a better path to success.”

Terry added that Lyft has an agreement with Huntsville International Airport. Uber has not secured an airport deal.

John Seymour, chief executive officer and president of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said adding Lyft and Uber is “another quality-of-life improvement for the city. It helps people get around the city and the area. They can get to the airport without leaving their car there.”

The two vehicle-for-hire companies potentially will compete with the taxi companies and public transportation. The North Alabama Regional Council of Governments Transit offers public transportation, but the service is limited to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Decatur had two taxi companies last year when the city was considering the vehicles-for-hire ordinance. Sal Jasso, of the city’s Revenue Department, said Decatur Taxi Co. is the city’s only remaining taxi company.

Trans City Cab appears to no longer be operating in Decatur. Jasso said he has been unable to contact the owner.

Last year, then-Trans City Cab Manager Terry James said Uber likely would be a death blow to any taxi service in Decatur. His four drivers typically had between 10 and 20 passengers a week.

“I’m not sure how this impacts the taxis,” Terry said. “Taxi service has been spotty over the past few years. But there are still so many people who aren’t comfortable yet using this alternative service. Every time there’s competition, that makes the others step up their game.”