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TRIDE Rideshare to begin operations

A new type of transportation service will formally begin operations in Lawton mid-month.

TRIDE Rideshare already has several drivers who are operating in the city, but the digital-based company has scheduled its "hard" opening Jan. 15, said Joe Desrosiers, TRIDE's director of driver development.

Desrosiers said TRIDE is different from traditional transportation operations, with some saying it meets the needs of the generation that is solidly based in technology. But City of Lawton officials have expressed concerns about the announcement, saying that the state law that allows such digital companies to operate also takes away local controls.

Lawton city code defines a taxicab as any motor vehicle for hire, designed to carry 10 or fewer people, and accepting or soliciting passengers for transportation, and it sets specific guidelines about how those passengers may be accepted and how cabs may operate. The Oklahoma Transportation Network Company Services Act (passed into law as House Bill 1614 in the 2015 legislative session) that controls TRIDE defines a digital network as any online application, software, website or system that uses digital technology to link network drivers to passengers needing rides. Taxicabs often are cash based; companies like TRIDE may not accept cash.

Desrosiers said the difference is simpler than that.

"In the past, you've got a taxi that shows up. You're in the back seat and you feel like you're a package being delivered from one place to another. I look at it (TRIDE) as a friend with a car," he said.

Desrosiers said under his company's system, drivers who contract to work with TRIDE use their own vehicles to pick up passengers, via an app that people have on their phones, that they use to request a ride. That app also provides verification of what the company is, a picture of the vehicle and driver, and details such as license plate number, all intended to help riders verify their driver is legitimate.

"That already is different than a taxi," he said.

Desrosiers said the ride experience also is different, something he knows because he was driver. Desrosiers said he noticed that when he arrived to pick up customers, most reached for the handle on his back door.

"But I invited passengers to ride in front, like friends," he said. "I never liked riding in a cab myself because I didn't like sitting in the back."

There are differences beyond simply entering the vehicle.

Desrosiers said payments for rides are done electronically, including tips (although customers may leave the driver a cash tip, the only exception for the cash transaction ban in state law). He said rates, which are based on time, distance traveled and type of vehicle, are stable, so the company doesn't do surge rates (charging higher fees at certain times). Customers can even estimate, via their app reservation method, the cost of their ride and make arrangements for rides two weeks in advance.

And while the business is intended as app on phones, "it doesn't have to be smartphone based," he said, noting customers may book rides through the company's website (TRIDE.com).

The Lawton Constitution

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