by Kate Evans
Morgan County residents now have access to established ride share services Uber and Lyft through three major local drivers, who are seeing the demand for the app-based ride service rise.
Potential riders download Uber and Lyft apps online through each company’s website. Users create an account and request rides by entering their destination and pick-up locations. Trips and driver tips are paid for through the apps.
Jim Smalley runs Smalley Transport and started driving for Uber and Lyft on March 11 in Berkeley Springs, Morgan County and the Eastern Panhandle. He was looking for something else to do after he resigned as Rescue Mission chaplain and wanted to provide the service to the county since there’s no local transportation.
Smalley has driven for UberEats, where he delivers food from a restaurant. He said it’s more popular in Martinsburg.
Smalley said ride prices depend on the time of day, distance and demand.
If people know they have a doctor’s appointment or need a lift to the airport in advance, they can schedule a ride ahead of time. Reaching Smalley by cell phone or text is an option if he can’t be reached through the apps.
Smalley generally works afternoon through late evening. He said some days rides are spotty and other days it’s one after another. It’s been slow in picking up, but word is getting out.
Rides have included driving students to college, taking people home from the hospital and driving people to hotels and the airport. Smalley gets some business from Charles Town and the casino and also from Martinsburg.
Smalley noted that everything is done through the apps. Riders request rides through the apps and pay through them. All the Uber and Lyft drivers do is show up, drive people and drop them off. Riders can tip drivers and also rate drivers through their smartphone.
Safety features protect riders and drivers where you can call 911 if something is happening that shouldn’t be, Smalley said. Background checks are also done on drivers before they’re approved.
Smalley said he loves to drive and that he drove a tractor-trailer for 12 years.
Lucile Sasser began her Cottage Concierge transportation company for the Woods Resort area since there’s no public transportation in Hedgesville.
She added Uber and Lyft ride services to focus on the Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs areas. Sasser hopes to find potential riders in summer travelers to the area.
Riders contact Sasser through the ride apps or also call or text her. She said she has some customers that don’t want to download the app and just want her to come and get them.
Sasser started driving for Uber and Lyft in March and serves riders in Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs as needed. She also works in Martinsburg and Charles Town.
Sasser said she’s driven people to doctor’s appointments and other appointments, the grocery store, to or from work and home from the shop while their car is being fixed.
Sasser said her main purpose in being a driver is to help the community and Hedgesville.
“People are fun and interesting. Some are quiet and talk up a storm. It’s an interesting job,” Sasser said.
Tom Hall, former Town of Bath manager and water superintendent, has been driving for Uber and Lyft since April 9. Uber assigned him to the Eastern Panhandle including Martinsburg to Charlestown.
Hall said he wanted to do something that didn’t require a lot of physical activity. He turns on his app around noon and drives to Martinsburg. Some days there are lots and lots of rides, some days not.
“If I decide to quit, I turn off the app and come home-it’s the best of both
worlds. If I can be of service to our community, that’s what I want to be,” Hall said.
A typical Uber or Lyft fee for a ride around the community in Berkeley Springs doesn’t cost much, Hall said. People contact him through the ride service apps but can also call him on his cell phone if he’s not in town.
Hall said driving is really fun and he looks forward to it. Riders have been honest, wholesome and just looking to get somewhere.
Smalley, Sasser and Hall all said that they would go to Paw Paw and western Morgan County or take riders there if requested.