Uber wants to come to Block Island.
On Monday, June 25, the ride sharing service placed an online ad on The Block Island Times website seeking island drivers. The ad is straightforward: “Drive with Uber on Block Island!”
A spokesperson for Uber, Alix Anfang, said in a statement to The Times that the reason Uber wants to do business here is because “Last summer, nearly 10,000 riders opened up the Uber app on Block Island looking for a ride. It is clear that residents and visitors are clamoring for an affordable, reliable ride during the summer months.”
Block Island has been seeking legislative support to regulate what are known as transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft from coming to Block Island, but while supporting legislation passed in the state Senate this past session, the bill has stalled in the House.
The appearance of Uber “is not unexpected, given the lack of movement up at the statehouse to let us regulate these transportation companies, as we have for the independent taxi licenses since the 1920s,” said Brad Marthens, Chair of Block Island’s Motor Vehicles for Hire Commission, which regulates the local taxicab business.
A visit to the taxi stand at Old Harbor the morning the news broke brought a unified reaction.
“I’m anti-Uber,” said taxi driver Russell White, who was waiting for a fare. “Uber is a four-letter word here.”
When told that one of the reasons why Uber wanted to come to Block Island was that residents and visitors were seeking “affordable, reliable” transportation, driver Frank Nicastro said, “I thought that was what we were supplying.”
“We offer very responsible and safe transportation for everyone involved at a very reasonable price,” said White. He also had a forecast: “Uber will kill the taxi industry out here.”
“Wow,” said driver Steve McQueeney. “We’ll see. It’ll be very interesting.”
This is a developing story. For more information, please see this week’s edition of The Block Island Times.