Amelia Island is a Community of Solidarity and Loyalty
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
Showing no signs of cessation, Silicon Valley sits perched atop the tech industry, unrivaled and always eager to serve up a touch more convenience to take another edge off our daily grind. Whether you’re pressed to whip out a last minute phrase in Spanish, trying to remember the name of a song, or need to download a level on the jobsite, someone has likely programmed an app which awaits your eager click. Uber, originally taking to the streets in 2009, was introduced in the San Francisco Bay area as Ubercab. In true grass roots fashion, the small startup capitalized on their locally-realized potential. In just a few short years, 2009 brought the unchallenged new company international success. As of May 2016, Uber was becoming a global in all operations, providing its’ services and transportation in 66 countries and 449 cities. Adversely, next time you are in need of a lift, take a look at how many Uber drivers are available in Fernandina Beach on any given night. No, there’s not an issue with your data plan. You’re experiencing what many tourists will experience throughout the season. Individuals seeking to compete with well-established taxi services are having a difficult time getting their foot in the economic door. While big cities are a virtual money pit for an Uber driver partner, smaller towns are proving to be a far less effortless economy to penetrate. These local businesses have earned the loyalty of their tightly-knit communities and have most or all their personal worth invested in their business.
Any long term small business owner, located on Amelia Island, will tell you there is one simple thing to remember when operating in a small community. Word of mouth is everything! A sour taste has been left after driver’s, claiming to be under the umbrella of Uber, were forced to come to terms with certain restrictions. A city ordinance – passed early last year – outlines taxi service requirements as seen by the City of Fernandina Beach. All drivers must keep their city medallion displayed at all times. Also, each driver must carry a commercial license. Assuming both of those requirements are met, an Uber decal or decal of the company for which you drive, must be displayed at all times. Fernandina Beach Police Officer Michelle Alderson has dealt first hand with drivers operating illegally, and simply explained, “People just aren’t following the city ordinance.” While the ordinance being ignored will eminently lead to Uber quickly becoming an Amelia afterthought, there are few things more crippling than the inability of the community to trust those under your employ. There have been several instances reported where citizens were posing as Uber drivers. Their strategy rests on being outside the bar to intercept the business from legally certified transportation professionals. The local factors that make Uber complicated are many, but there is one bombshell that could cost both the local transportation industries nationwide Uber and real revenue. In such a small community located within the confines of the island, the portion of a patrons is comprised of a fairly familiar crowd. There have been reports of drivers circumventing the app entirely, leaving Uber uppers blind to driver activity. A certain local culture that has come to define the island’s culture in regards to small business. That movement is one of solidarity and loyalty. The bond that exists in a community shackled on from the trials they have walked together, can outshine the fading appeal of an abused privilege that could result in bodily injury, or worse. It happens all the time. The transportation industry, which includes services like taxi’s and buses, is no different. A business is a living thing. It has memory. It lives and breathes just as any organism. Speaking with Sheila Johnson, owner of Affordable Transportation, the question of whether she felt a surge in the amount of Uber drivers popping up around the island would damage her business. Confidently, “I don’t expect that Uber will have any effect – whatsoever- on my business. By going the extra step for our guests – even if that extra step is helping you to your door – we’ve built a level of trust and dependability amongst the community.” Jose Correoso is one of Florida’s representatives for Uber. Given the opportunity to respond to the growing concerns behind Uber operations, he afforded the following statement.
” Uber has guidelines that set out the behavior expected from both, driver partners and riders. Partners who do not follow the guidelines may be barred from using Uber. Our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during, and after every trip in ways that were not possible before smartphones.” – Jose Correoso, Uber
While their success rate might be limited in smaller cities, it’s crystal clear that Uber’s service is a valued one in America’s largest cities. Though, they will have to make some changes to be able to compete with the loyalty of local Island residents.
When visiting our beautiful island ask one of the local transportation services to drop you off at the Harbor Front so you can catch the boat. Get a glimpse of our amazing and peaceful piece of world. Sit back and enjoy one of the best sunsets on the family friendly sunset cruise. (continue…)