Uber begins service, won’t be going to Phenix City or Fort Benning

Uber begins serving Columbus, here are things you need to know

Uber will not be operating in Phenix City or Fort Benning but company officials say they are working to gain access.
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Uber will not be operating in Phenix City or Fort Benning but company officials say they are working to gain access.

Uber made its entrance into the Columbus market on Tuesday, but the company is still working through some issues that prohibit it from offering service into Phenix City and Fort Benning.

The popular ride sharing service will not operate in Phenix City or Fort Benning, Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said.

“Georgia state law has allowed for Uber to operate throughout the state so we are going to be able to operate in all parts of Columbus and all surrounding counties in Georgia,” said Uber Atlanta General Manager Luke Marklin said.

As Uber expands its coverage area, this is an issue that is common, Marklin said.

“This is a situation that we have been in before where we can operate in certain areas, and in other areas we are still working out the details,” Marklin said. “We have plenty to run with in this downtown and this community. We are looking forward to that growth and hopefully in short order we can get those other things figured out.”

Working with the Department of Defense to obtain access to military installations like Fort Benning is more difficult, Marklin said.

“It is a federal organization and it works from the top down,” Marklin said. “We have started at the top and are working our way down.”

There is no time frame for the company to offer service into East Alabama and Fort Benning. However, last month Uber did begin service in Auburn, Ala.

The Georgia market opened for Uber in 2015 when the Georgia General Assembly passed comprehensive legislation that took control of companies such as Uber away from the local governments and gave it to the state.

“Georgia has been a great state for us and has passed strong, reasonable, comprehensive ride-sharing legislation throughout the state,” Marklin said. “Our friends in Alabama haven’t done that yet. So Uber will be operating in Georgia for the time being. We are working with Alabama cities and municipalities to get to the other side of the river.”

Phenix City Finance Director Steve Smith said he has not talked with anyone from Uber about operating in that community.

“And I would be the contact on that,” he said on Tuesday.

The company would need a business license to operate in Phenix City, Smith said.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who took the ceremonial first ride, said she has no problems with Uber being regulated on a state basis and not a local one. There is a city Taxi Commission that has no authority over Uber because of the state law. Uber just has to obtain a Columbus business license to operate here.

“I think this is the new wave of things,” she said on Tuesday.

The city commission that regulates cabs is going to be working with Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin in the wake of Uber’s entrance into the Columbus market, Tomlinson said.

“We are going to try and renew it and bring it up to speed,” Tomlinson said. “They are going to actually look if they can get apps. Instead of staying locked in the past and just having little fiefdoms, this is a great way to try and bring everybody up to today.”

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams