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Sara Samad 15 Aug 2014

Toot Toot, The Uber Travel App Has Arrived in Beirut

One of the most popular complaints among Beirutis involves the ubiquitous service, a form of public transportation that allows commuters to grab a ride from one of the many red-license plate vehicles on the road and potentially share it with several other people headed along the same route.

“They rip me off” or “the drivers are rude and crazy,” are just few of the common complaints you’ll hear from riders. Well now, these complaints could turn into a thing of the past with the entrance of the already internationally established Uber app – a mobile application that allows users to request a ride virtually from anywhere in the country’s capital.

“We are here to give more choices to Beirut’s transportation ecosystem. Our high safety standards and comfortable cars make us a reliable option for anyone looking to move from point A to point B comfortably,” explains Uber Lebanon’s General Manager Sebastien Wakim.

So here’s how it works: say you’re in Gemmayzeh and you want to get to Hamra. You whip out your phone, open the app (which you can download for free on Android and iOS) and pin your location on a map. The app will then show you a profile of the nearest driver assigned to pick you up, where he is on the map in relation to your location, and how long it will take him to arrive. When the car arrives, a chauffeur wearing a swanky suit will open the doors of the luxury black car that will transport you to your destination.

Here’s the twist: if there is another passenger with a similar route to you, the taxi can also pick them up and the two of you have the option of splitting the price. And here’s the best part: it’s cash free. All payments happen through the app (which holds your credit/debit card information). There is a minimum base fare of $2.40, and then it increases at a rate of $0.16 per minute, or $0.65 per kilometer, a rate which actually turns out to be cheaper than most regular Taxi Services in Lebanon.

“To clarify, we are not a taxi service,” says Wakim. “We are a technology company that connects existing transportation supply to requesting passengers. Our goal is to match supply with demand, and to continue lowering the estimated time of arrival from when a user makes a request until when the car is outside the door.”

Perhaps the most significant benefit of the new service, is that it tackles the issue of safety. The app provides you with detailed information about the driver, including his picture, name and registration. At the end of the trip you instantly receive an email with an overview of your journey, including a map with a red line showing the exact route the driver took. From there, any rider can send – via a text message – a link which allows a friend, relative or loved one to track in real time the exact journey the car is taking via GPS. In addition, all drivers must go through a screening process by the Uber company, which requires qualifications similar to that of a regular Taxi Service. The cars do not have a registered red license plate like that required of taxi services in Lebanon, but Uber is distinguished from other cars on the road by its fleet of black sedans.

“What sets this apart from all other transportation services I’ve tried is all the information I receive. From how long the car needs to pick you up to the route information. You know everything, and that is the most important thing,” said Uber user Samar About Lteif.

(Image via Chemali Blog)