The transportation industry has been floored by how quickly the smartphone application “Uber” has become integrated into the lives of young adults. Uber is best characterized as a parttaxi, part-personal driver service. Upon request, the app immediately pairs users with a temporary chauffeur close to them, while simultaneously changing the Uber driver’s status to “en route.” Uber's site boasts of the service’s ability to “bring people and their city closer”, and it hasn’t disappointed for University of Richmond students.
In past years, bringing a car to campus as an incoming freshman was among the highest privileges, and certainly enhanced one’s ability to make friends. Today, Uber has made having a car less of a worry. Many students I’ve encountered declare that their parents prefer Uber to a student driver for rides to and from school.
The city of Richmond sold me on my decision to become a Spider. I couldn’t resist the extensive list of restaurants, shopping destinations and cultural events this city has to offer. Not to mention the unparalleled internship and career opportunities – this is the capital of Virginia, after all. But how is a student like myself, who lives too far to drive their car to campus, supposed to explore or access the opportunities available to me? Uber has made the city of Richmond’s opportunities a reality for students like myself because of three major reasons: the convenience of the app, the safety it promises, and the connectivity it provides to the community. Having the app in the palm of your hand and seeing the car drive towards your location on a map is both convenient and comforting. In addition, the app makes the name of the driver as well as the make and model of the car they drive visible, so you know exactly who to look for when they arrive.
This is not to say that university-provided transportation, shuttles such as the Mall Crawl, don’t do the trick. However, I believe college students all over would agree with me when I say that the major incentive to use Uber is its flexibility with time. No other app that I’ve encountered allows you to press a button and receive immediate validation that someone reliable is on his or her way to pick you up. As embarrassing as it is, I have to admit to using the phrase “Uber to the rescue!” when I’ve had to meet a friend last minute, pick up a prescription or buy those Krispy Kreme donuts my friends have been craving all day.
The “Richmond bubble” has been an ongoing joke on campus attributed to the closed-circuit atmosphere that can develop if students stay around the lake for too long. The same feeling crept up on my friends during high school in Cincinnati. We found that the best way to kick the stir-crazy vibes was to go exploring downtown for a new restaurant, farmers market, or park and simply enjoy a day free of routine. I’ve always been comforted by familiarity of the campus bubble, but branching out into the city makes me feel like I’m genuinely taking these four short years by the horns and immersing myself in all that Richmond has to offer.