Uber, Lyft cars offer local transportation with state's blessing


For John Hadaway, running a taxi service is simply the family business, but the world’s changed quite a bit since he drove a cab for his dad.

Nowadays, the newly-christened Uber driver’s shift begins and ends on the Information Superhighway, his actual road-miles book -ended by ones and zeros.

Hadaway’s been a contractor for the ride-sharing service the past four months. In that time, he’s only run two fares in Kilgore – a drop-off at a motel and a subsequent pick-up at the same stop, bound for East Texas Regional Airport.

To his knowledge there are a couple, maybe three Uber drivers working this territory. Lyft also has a presence as, between the two tech-companies, Kilgore is served by both the Longview and Tyler markets.

Waiting for business to catch on here, Hadaway spends the bulk of his time in Tyler at the moment, running fares as often as he gets the alert on his smartphone.

“You have to hustle,” he said. “The other day I worked from 10 a.m. until about 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. the next morning.”

It amounted to just 15 fares in as many hours. Hadaway’s a believer, though, confident the app-based dispatches are an affordable and convenient alternative for individuals without reliable transportation, especially the ones who can’t modify their schedules to match the GoBus service in operation throughout East Texas.

“Uber’s more of an individual service,” he said, closer in spirit and practice to the Hadaway Taxi company his dad, Glenn, ran for years: “The only reason I let the business go is he had a bad heart,” exacerbated as Hadaway Sr. constantly monitored whether customers were being served on time.

“He’d just worry, worry, worry about it.”

In town, a ride from (for example) Kilgore Economic Development Corporation to East Texas Oil Museum – 5 or 6 road-miles, about 10 minutes in the car – is estimated at $10-13 at Uber’s base level, about $14 for Lyft. Kilgore City Hall to Longview City Hall runs approximately $23 through Lyft or between $18 and $24 with Uber, based on the companies’ online estimators.

Download the operators’ respective apps to calculate rides or hail drivers.

Legally, Uber and Lyft are different entities from classic taxis – last May, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott signed House Bill 100 into law, establishing standardized framework statewide to regulate ride-hailing outfits.

“Any attempts to regulate Uber that had been in place before, they’re undone,” Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck confirmed. Granted, the City of Kilgore didn’t have any on the books prior to the measure, and that hasn’t changed – the state regs are sufficient. “The state legislation defines that these are personal vehicles and digital pre-arranged drivers, and says basically they are not a taxi cab, limo or other vehicle.

“From our current perspective, we don’t believe that our existing ordinance applies to them. I’m not aware of any attempts or conversation about attempting to regulate them.”

Selleck was pleasantly surprised to hear Uber and Lyft traffic is picking up here.

“I’d say that’s very exciting,” he added. “I think that Kilgore has probably been somewhat under-served from a taxi and limo standpoint.

“Uber, Lyft and other services, being as nationally-known as they are, may bring Kilgore within reach of people from other areas. That’s pretty exciting.”

It’s a solid opportunity for Hadaway and other contractors. He’s glad to be behind the wheel of his pristine Ford Taurus for Uber’s sake after completing all the necessary paperwork: insurance, background check and the like.

“I’m just trying to hustle. I’ll take ‘em anywhere in Texas if the money’s right.”