Life / Travel

Ride-hailing app Uber to launch on Big Island this week

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Getting around the Big Island will soon take only the touch of a smartphone as ride-hailing app Uber is set to launch in Kailua-Kona and Hilo this week.

Uber will go live on Friday across the island, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/2nvDy2U ). The smartphone app launched on Kauai last week and has been on Maui and Oahu since 2014.

Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said there are no specific goals for how many drivers may be needed for Uber on the Big Island. Job postings seeking drivers on the island have been up since last week.

"I would say there's a lot of opportunity, and we want to get it right," Patterson said. "We want to make sure we have adequate supplies in every town that we launch in. That means starting to educate potential drivers about the opportunities, and then the opportunities for ridership."

Uber drivers must pass a background check and have valid insurance. Their vehicle must be registered and inspected.

Taxi drivers in Kailua-Kona said they don't want Uber to launch on the island without strict regulations, such as the ones in Honolulu.

"We don't want Uber coming unless they're regulated," said Brad Hollister, owner of Paradise Taxi. "Our concern is they can't just be allowed to come over . they need to be screened, they need to be qualified."

Members of the County Council are scheduled to meet with Uber representatives before the launch. Mayor Harry Kim admitted that transportation accessibility on the Big Island is "a very big problem."

"What we find is that in many places, once Uber is well-established, average wait times for a car is four minutes, which means that people are able to get around reliably and safely at any time of day, and for a lot of people that's really life-changing," he said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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