Uber returns to North Whidbey

After an absence of more than three months, Uber is back in Oak Harbor.

The ride-share company stopped operating in the city last September because of new city regulations, though rival Lyft continued operations unimpeded.

Earlier this year, City Administrator Blaine Oborn announced that Uber completed the business license requirements and can return to operating in the city. He said the city’s application was slightly revised after discussion with Uber but that it still complies with the city’s ordinance regulating such services.

Nick Greven, an Oak Harbor Uber and Lyft driver, said the return of Uber will be good for both drivers and passengers, though he still has concerns about the overlapping rules between jurisdictions. He has a business license out of Seattle but apparently Oak Harbor also wants individual drivers to get business licenses through the city if they drive within the city limits.

Green was surprised last fall when the Uber app stopped working in the city.

At the time, Oborn explained that a state law allowed municipalities to regulate transportation network carriers, which are companies that use an online-enabled platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal, non-commercial vehicles.

The city adopted new rules in which the companies have to pay a $600 fee and are obligated to do some background checking on drivers, Oborn said.

Greven has been driving for Uber and Lyft for more than three years and drives as much as 80,000 miles a year.

“I like the flexibility and the freedom,” he said.

He knows of two other full-time drivers in the area as well as some part-timers.

Greven often travels to the mainland for more lucrative business, though he prefers to stay on Whidbey Island. His customers are often disabled people or people who are going to medical appointments. He hopes that more people will get used to calling on Lyft and Uber.

He pointed out that there’s a new service that allows people without smartphones to get a ride with Lyft or Uber. Go Go Grandparent can be reached at 1-855-913-1110.

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