About a year ago, Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm approved an ordinance to regulate businesses that provide ride-hailing services, such as Uber or Lyft.
Months later, Nathan Kimbel of Olympia and his fiancée, Ashlie Cruz, visited Las Vegas, Nevada, and experienced Uber and Lyft firsthand. Both became intrigued by the service, in which people use their own vehicles to transport their customers from one location to another.
Also unlike a cab, you don’t call or flag down an Uber driver — you arrange transportation through a smart phone app.
Kimbel said, as a passenger, he enjoyed the connection the passenger made with the driver, describing the experience as if you were getting a ride with a friend.
So they both decided to become drivers. They bought a Nissan Rogue and, after passing background and vehicle inspections, they were in business. Kimbel said he started the process on a Monday and was approved by Wednesday.
He’s now been driving part-time for Uber for three months while also holding down a full-time job in Tacoma. Ashlie drives for Uber about twice a month.
“It’s nice to have spending money, or a little extra cash in your pocket,” he said.
Kimbel said he’s not a fan of staying up late, so he drives between 5 and 8 p.m., largely sticking to the Olympia and Lacey areas. His longest trip to date has been taking someone from Capital Mall in west Olympia to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Here’s what Kimbel has learned about the job:
▪ You wanna drive for Uber? You’d better be a people person and like to drive.
▪ You’re going to meet all kinds of people. Kimbel, who said he’s completed 40-50 rides, has met passengers from California and the Midwest as well as those in the military.
▪ Not every passenger is chatty. Some are quiet and some will spend the entire ride on their phone.
▪ He makes between $5 and $30 per ride. He made $30 on the Capital Mall to JBLM trip. The payment formula is a combination of trip, time and distance, Kimbel said. Customers know what they will pay when they book the trip, and a credit card they have registered with the app is automatically charged.
▪ Will you get rich driving for Uber? No. You don’t make a lot of money, but it’s the kind of money that will help you stretch a paycheck, he said. However, more money can be made if you’re willing to work between midnight and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. That’s when people need a ride home after a night on the town.
▪ Both passengers and drivers rate each other on the Uber app. Not everyone chooses to do so, but those who have, have rated Kimbel a 5-star driver.
How many Uber drivers are there in the area? Kimbel said he doesn’t know for sure, but Fourth Avenue through downtown Olympia “can get busy with Uber drivers.”
When he’s not driving for Uber, Kimbel works for State Farm as an auto claims processor. He and Ashlie are set to get married in March.