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Uber expected to launch at noon

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Uber Technologies Inc. is expected to launch its service in Springfield at noon today.

A post on Reddit by a driver indicates the service will start accepting passengers today.

Jason Klein, president of Logic Forte, and David Fleming, a remote construction estimator for Morgan Hill, California-based Silicon Valley Glass Inc. living in Springfield, are preparing to use the service after spotting the Reddit post.

Fleming said he’ll be opening his app at noon to attempt to get a ride from southwest Springfield to Springfield Brewing Co. to meet up with Klein for lunch. Fleming said he direct-messaged the driver on Reddit, and that person confirmed the noon launch.

“For me, the nicest thing about Uber is you can communicate all the details of your trip without [verbal] communication,” Fleming said, noting he’s used the ride-hailing service often in Eastern Europe where language is a barrier.

He said his first ride in Springfield would be a test of Uber’s rates in the city. It’s unclear what they will be in the Queen City.

The Network, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s group for young professionals, yesterday posted an event invitation called, “Your Uber Has Arrived.” The post calls on people to “join leaders from Springfield and Uber for an exciting celebration” at 6:30 p.m. at downtown’s Hotel Vandivort.

Uber’s plans follow Springfield City Council’s Nov. 14 passage of rules governing transportation network companies. The new council-approved regulations mean the city will issue permits to companies instead of directly to drivers, allowing businesses to perform their own due diligence. In addition, TNCs would have to cover $1 million in insurance for death, bodily injury and property damage while drivers are working, and the allowable age for drivers would be 18 instead of 21.

“This is, I believe, a landmark piece of legislation,” Mayor Pro-tem Ken McClure said prior to council approving the ordinance. “I believe the proposed substitute is fair to the transportation network companies in that it recognizes the nuances of its business plan. I believe it’s fair to the traditional transportation providers because, as we heard two weeks ago, there have been some business impediments, and I believe we are removing those.”

Springfield-Branson National Airport spokesman Kent Boyd said the airport currently is negotiating a fee Uber would pay to pick up passengers at the terminal.

“All airports that receive federal money are required by the (Federal Aviation Administration) to charge anybody who does business here,” he said. “They want to make sure that airports are as financially stable as possible and as financially independent as possible.”

Boyd said he’s unsure what the fee would be, but the airport will work to make sure taxicab companies pay the same rate. 

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