Ride-share service launches in BR

Uber launched its ride-share service in Baton Rouge on Friday with LSU football coach Les Miles as “rider zero.”

It’s unclear if Miles is a paid endorser. Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh said she could not provide details about Miles because of the company’s privacy policies.

The service will offer rides for $5 each during the first two weeks. Regular-price fares might be higher. Uber charges a base fare of $2.50 plus 35 cents per minute and $1.60 per mile.

For example, the 9-mile trip from The Chimes on Highland Road to The Chimes East on Coursey Boulevard is $21, according to Uber.

Keith Wyckoff, manager of Yellow Cab Baton Rouge, the largest taxi provider in the parish, said that’s almost identical to the price for a taxi.

Yellow Cab and other local taxi companies and limousine services had fought efforts to make it legal for ride-share companies to operate in East Baton Rouge Parish. The local businesses said ride-share firms’ fares aren’t regulated. Unlike cab companies, ride-share firms can charge whatever they want and raise the price during busier periods.

Ride-share drivers also don’t have to meet the same level of safety regulations, according to cab and limousine operators. For example, taxi drivers must have a state chauffeur license and get their vehicles and meters inspected twice a year. Taxi drivers must also go to the city police each year to be fingerprinted and photographed.

But the Metro Council disagreed. Supporters said there aren’t enough cabs in Baton Rouge — the city has around 150 — and it takes too long for those available to arrive.

The council passed ordinances to ensure criminal background and driving-record checks also are required for ride-sharing drivers. But it’s up to the companies to do the checking.

Uber does not disclose the number of its drivers because that information is proprietary, Durkosh said. However, Uber has received “overwhelming support” from riders and drivers so far in Baton Rouge.

Uber is offering two types of service in Baton Rouge: UberBlack, professional drivers with commercial driver’s licenses and insurance and black sedans, town cars and SUVs that seat four people; and UberX, mid-size or full-size four-door vehicles in excellent condition, with drivers who are at least 21, with a personal license and auto insurance. UberX launched Friday.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter @tedgriggsbr.