Guest Opinion: Council dragging its feet?

    I’m having a hard time understanding why the Ashland City Council is dragging its feet in pursuing the benefits of allowing ride-sharing (Uber or Lyft) in Ashland. Per the minutes of the March 6 council meeting, council members seem reluctant to make any decisions on something that would clearly help the community in numerous ways.
    Though minutes of the April 17 meeting, for which the discussion appears to have been tabled, have not yet been posted, there is no mention of ride sharing as a topic of discussion on that meeting’s agenda. So, I’m assuming that more time is going to be consumed in trying to find more ways to keep Ashland from enjoying these kinds of services, unfortunately.
    There seems to be a great deal of fear on the part of the council, and I believe that worry about background checks going beyond seven years would be ridiculous. Ride-sharing is working in big cities where there would be a lot more opportunities for criminals to become Uber drivers. Besides, even someone who passes a background check going back 20 years might, someday, do something criminal, so it seems the council should try to not fall prey to appeals to fear and slippery-slope claims.
    My husband and I recently returned from an RV trip to San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and because of the unwieldy size of our rig, we found ourselves taking Uber with incredible ease between all manner of venues, from the RV parks to restaurants, to ballparks and museums, and especially after late-night drinks at a sports bar. We found that those rides were, in some cases, some of the highlights of our trip, as we were able to meet local individuals ranging from college students to a retired banker, and even a young man running for the Arizona State Senate who managed, during our brief ride, to present, quite eloquently, his platform even though he knew we wouldn’t be voting in his election. It’s hard to imagine how we would have managed without the trustworthy, easy-to-use services of Uber.
    We’re living in the 21st century. “Uber” has even become several parts of speech in our modern language, so that we use the word, now, as a noun (We took an Uber from the airport), and as a verb (Let’s Uber to the bar! We Ubered over here.) — something that fascinates me, as a linguist. With this modern convenience becoming more and more a necessity, I think the council should look at ride-sharing as something they should whole-heartedly support, and soon, especially as the Shakespeare Festival is under way, for the following reasons.
    First, allowing ride-sharing would provide rides for everyone in Ashland, not just the tourists who crowd our streets nine months of the year, but also for local people after evenings of merriment at local pubs who might otherwise attempt hazardous driving, and even more so for people needing rides to doctors’ appointments, or even to the YMCA or shopping. Besides, those who claim that Uber cars would fill our streets and present parking problems do not consider that many theatergoers, those who stay at motels and hotels that are not within walking distance, would be able to take Uber, keeping parking woes to a minimum. Right now, our limited taxi service, reached by telephone, is disturbingly hit-and-miss and definitely not inviting enough for widespread use. Finally, besides filling the need for rides around the Rogue Valley, ride-sharing would provide a great amount of employment for people who need to augment their income — college students, the semi-retired and those who have a hard time making it at low-paying jobs.
    While, yes, there may be some concerns about insurance, wage fairness and fare controls, the benefits of having ride-sharing available for those who need it would be a way for the city of Ashland to enter the modern age and be even more attractive to its residents and visitors.
    Karen Toloui lives in Ashland.

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