HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg based Grove Transit is launching an app-based, Uber-like car service for the Hattiesburg metro-area.
"There's nothing like this (in Hattiesburg)," said Dan Reid, president of Grove Transit. "I don't think there's anything even like this in Mississippi."
Callan Reid, vice president of Grove Transit, said the new groveRideNow ride service fills the need for safe, on-demand and convenient car trips in Hattiesburg.
"I know I've been out before and just trying to get home sometimes in Hattiesburg, there's not really someone to call," she said. "You're sitting there, and if you finally can get through to someone, then you're waiting. It can be up to an hour wait. So I knew there was a need, and the convenience, I love. I mean, I've used Uber and everything, and it's easy."
Dan said updates to the company's vehicles allowed him to make the jump to app-based requests for rides.
"About six months ago, we put computers in all of our vehicles, so that we could dispatch electronically and really, do away with all the paperwork," Dan said. "What that enabled us to do then is to send trips out to drivers. Then it was sort of just a natural extension for us to find an app and a way for the individuals to be able to communicate. People want it."
Callan said, "People like easy. People like the technology. If it's on their phone, you can use it."
Dan said right now, groveRideNow is only operating on Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to around 3 a.m, but he said 24-hour service will likely happen within the next month. While he thinks the service will be beneficial for Hattiesburg's late-night crowd, he said the service will also be a convenient option for the home-bound or elderly.
"We have the late night piece and that'll be a great piece," he said. "But there's really a demand for individuals who are home-bound, want to be independent, but one of the hardest things about maintaining your independence when you can't drive is that you're relying on family and friends for everything. This allows you to maintain your independence and have your trips when you want them, when you need them."
Callan said, "I really do see the need at night for safe transportation. I know when I went to college, I didn't have a car my first year. It's little things like that. You don't realize sometimes, 'oh I just need to get to the grocery store,' so hopefully now people will have more of a freedom."
Both said the fact that this is a locally-based ride service is important, especially when it comes to safety.
"I know there's been a lot of bad publicity with taxis and Ubers and stuff like that, and being a female, it's safe," Callan said. "These are all our drivers. They've all been background checked."
Dan said, "I think the problem that Uber's facing and some of the others companies, what they're really facing is the issue of insurance for their drivers, the background testing for their drivers and actually establishing that they're meeting the safety requirements. We've already done that. Every one of our drivers has gone through at least 40 hours of training. Every one of our drivers has pre-hire and random drug and alcohol screening. Our drivers all have extensive background checks and fingerprint checks, and they're local employees. They're not independent contractors, so we have already done all of the things that cause the regulatory problems for Uber and the others."
Dan also said there should not be any operational issues with the city either.
"Here in Hattiesburg, they don't really have a taxi bureau, but if they did, it wouldn't be an issue because anything that they would put in requirement wise, we've already done."
Callan said they also had a focus on affordability when creating the service.
"We want to keep it cheap," she said. "Hattiesburg's a lot smaller than you really realize, so going from Southern to downtown is only like $5. We're charging per carload, so even if it's five people or one person in the car, it's going to be the same price."
Dan said riders can store credit card information in an account on the app or pay with a credit in the car when you ride. He said even if you do not have a smart phone or have not downloaded the app, riders can still call into the office and have a car dispatched, but he hopes the digital option makes travel more convenient.
"Places that currently have to call us or fax us to book a trip ahead of time, we hope in the not too distant future will able to just do it through an app," he said.