Hillsdale Daily News reporter Corey Murray is the City of Hillsdale’s first licensed Lyft driver — but he has yet to pick up a local rider.
For now, Murray has been driving several nights out of the week for Uber and Lyft, two popular ride-sharing companies, in the more urban city of Ann Arbor.
“I’ve figured it out — you can make like $300 — $400 bucks a night up there,” he said. “It gets super busy.”
According to Murray, driving in Ann Arbor has not only given him extra money, it has exposed him to a variety of people from drunk college students to average working people, but all trying to get around the Detroit metropolitan area.
“They’re a crazy crowd,” he said.
Murray said he got started because services such as Lyft and Uber are cheaper than taxi services for both drivers and riders. Because ride-sharing drivers do not have to go through the same bureaucratic procedures taxi drivers must comply with, they can offer rides to customers at a lower fare. For Murray, the lure of extra cash was too sweet to pass up.
Murray said he hopes his success in Ann Arbor will extend to Hillsdale, especially once college students find out he’s an active driver.
Although he originally tried to secure a position driving for Uber in Hillsdale, Murray learned that particular ride sharing service only covers densely populated areas. Lyft, on the other hand, moves state-by-state, making rural ride sharing a possibility.
Murray is not the first taxi-type service to debut in Hillsdale. Hillsdale resident Charles “Chopper” Ferguson opened the taxi service, Call and Go Now, in 2016 as a way of securing gas money for the many free rides he had been giving to Hillsdale residents for years before.
Ferguson’s service shut down in 2017 after increasing insurance rates made the continuance of his business untenable. Additionally, Ferguson continued to give out free rides, damaging his profit margins.
“I should’ve started charging more sooner, but we’re not here to rip people off,” he told The Collegian.
Following Ferguson’s efforts, a Hillsdale College club Enactus attempted to start an ride sharing service based on the Uber business model. Despite initial strong interest from the school, it too failed to take hold in the local community.
The city does, however, already have one public transportation service that has been in effect since the 1970s: Dial-A-Ride. The service’s three buses — only two are currently active, however — operate within city limits from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, serving an average of 150 to 180 passengers per day, according to a March 2017 Collegian article.
According to Mayor Adam Stockford, 18 percent of DART’s funding comes from the federal government and 40 percent from the state government (including grants in 2017 to partner with Key Opportunities’ transportation program and to order two new buses). The City of Hillsdale provides the remaining 42 percent, which typically falls in the range of $100,000 to $140,000. DART draws this money from the city’s general fund.
“We were talking about goals — and education as one of our goals — so I think if we were ever to end the public transportation system, we would have a significant problem on our hands,” he said at a Feb. 19 meeting. “This is not an endorsement of public transport, but it is the world we live in.”
Murray said he thinks services like Lyft will make the getting around much easier for the people who need it.
“I don’t think it’ll get crazy busy, but once the word gets out, I think people will start using it — especially on the weekends,” he said.