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Out with Lyft, in with Uber: SG’s ride-sharing program replacement

SG hosted the $1,000 Uber Launch Event Aug. 29 on the USF Bookstore lawn. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/SG MARKETING

After months of constant issues with Lyft, Student Government (SG) changes gears and launches a new partnership with Uber to provide discounts to current USF students.

The $45,000 yearly contract with Uber will offer $5-off discounts per ride, Wednesday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Students can use the discount up to four times every month.

To claim the discount, students must provide their USF email and be currently registered USF Tampa students. Once they sign up for the discounts, an email will be sent out by Uber confirming their status and eligibility. The discount will then be added to each user’s Uber app.

As of Sept. 4, there are currently 608 active users signed up for the program and $923 in discounts have been used since the first ride.

Student Body Vice President Travis McCloskey said the contract with Uber does not have any financial obligations or extra fees attached to it. The funds allocated are solely used to maintain the student discount.

“If the funds run out, that’s it for the year,” McCloskey said. “So it’s not like we’re going to pull from somewhere else. It’s a limited program, where if we run out, we run out.

“We broke it down by how much we can spend per month. If we go over that, they will look at the total budget available and maybe decreasing hours. We don’t want to reduce the price of the discount, because we think $5 is a good discount.”

For football games, SG is offering a special discount for students to arrive safely at the Raymond James Stadium. The game day ride discount will give students the same $5-off discount, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. to get to and from the stadium. As of the last football game on Aug. 30, 14 rides were requested with the discount.

Through its own dashboard provided by Uber, SG has access to their total budget, live data based on the usage as well as control over the discount’s restrictions and value. In addition, SG can reevaluate its budget on a constant basis in order to stay on track throughout the year.

The plan for the future is to fund the program through sponsorships, according to Associate Justice Adam Matern.

“This is a program that will build with time as a successful way with funding coming from multiple different sources,” Matern said. “Every discount that we give to the students is fully funded by student government. We are looking for sponsorships to make sure that students can get around safely and as affordably as possible.”

A pilot program began in early August to evaluate how the program would be utilized by students. From the test, about 60 rides were requested before the program was officially launched Aug. 29.

Matern proposed the idea of partnering up with Uber after several issues arose with Lyft’s contract including IT issues, difficulties when scanning the code and its overall employee turnover.

“I noticed a lot of difficulties around the program while working with Lyft, such as constantly having different account managers, issues with the discount code, location restriction that was constantly changing and even multiple rounds of contracts per code,” Matern said. “That wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t the best that we could do for the students.”

The idea came after Matern worked in an internship with Johnson & Johnson, where he managed the company’s partnership with Uber and interacted with the program behind the scenes.

The program started growing in November, under the direction of former Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine. Even though Lyft had its issues, Kheireddine said the Uber partnership will enhance the ride-sharing program.

“My goal, and I think everyone’s goal at Student Government, should be to give students the best service and deal that we can provide, and if something is not working as it should be, then we need to fix it,” Kheireddine said. “Sometimes, we have to go back and forth with the provider to see what’s working and what’s not in order to provide those services.”

The partnership between SG and Uber began back in November, under Kheireddine’s term. Now, after the program’s official launch event on Aug. 29, the purpose of providing a safe alternative of transportation to students is still a priority, according to Matern.

“At the end of the day, students have paid for this service and it’s under their Activity and Service fee (A&S),” Matern said.