Uber Drivers Going Full Throttle in Wheeling for New Year’s Eve

Ridesharing service will help local revelers get home safely

Photo by Jessica Broverman Sunday will mark the first New Year’s Eve that the Uber ridesharing service is available in Wheeling. Several local drivers said they’ll be on hand to give revelers a way to get home safely.

WHEELING — Local Uber drivers will be out and about this weekend for New Year’s Eve knowing that many people will need a ride home after the stroke of midnight.

Meanwhile, an area law firm is teaming with a couple of cab companies to give people a safe way to get home if they’ve had too much to drink.

Uber made its first appearance in West Virginia in February of 2016 and became available to Wheeling residents in August. Nursing student Kelly Nicholson works for Eat In Now and utilizes Uber as a second source of income.

“Drunk driving is a huge issue and I’m happy to be a part of the prevention for that. This is definitely not something you do as a means to support yourself, but it does help a little,” Nicholson said of working as an Uber driver.

Although Nicholson normally does not work on Sundays, she plans to assist locals in getting home safely this New Year’s Eve.

“I haven’t had anybody that has been overly out of control. Most of my riders are grateful for the service. We have riders that are not just from Wheeling. We also get riders from Ohio who go home after a long night of partying,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said she hopes Uber will expand even further to other cities and states.

“I feel like the service is a very big necessity for the area. It’s unfortunate that we do not have it on the Ohio side of the Ohio Valley,” she said.

Brian Giles, owner of BMG Transport, Brian Giles, will be offering free rides within a 15-mile radius of Wheeling from 10 p.m. Sunday to 3 a.m. Monday for New Year’s Eve.

“Gold, Khourey, and Turak and I have teamed up to provide free rides for anyone that is intoxicated or doesn’t feel safe to drive,” Giles said. The law firm also will pay for those using Yellow Cab within a 15-mile radius of Moundsville during the same time frame.

Giles employs 19 drivers. He believes one advantage his taxi company has over Uber is that lower-income individuals can better afford it.

“To go from one end of Wheeling to another, you’re looking at about $10 and someone who is going a short distance can’t afford to pay the minimum fee with Uber,” said Giles.

Giles also believes the requirement of debit and credit cards deters many people from Uber.

“Uber hasn’t impacted me at all. Most people I pick up are repeats. They can’t afford to put a credit card on file with Uber and whatever that interest rate is on that credit card, as well,” he said.

Local resident and business owner Gary Bitzer Jr. plans to call an Uber this weekend, although he acknowledged availability can be an issue at times.

“If we do decide to go somewhere, I will probably attempt to use Uber to get home, but if there are only four or five of them running, it’s probably a lost cause trying to get one — seems to happen a lot,” said Bitzer.

Some riders have had issues in the past with receiving a ride later in the evening, but according to Nicholson and local Uber driver Rhonda Dare, they will be out all evening assisting people with a safe drive home.

Dare will be providing a discount to all first-time riders and has said it gives her a sense of purpose to know she is helping make the roads a little bit safer.

Lt. Kevin Kettler of the Wheeling Police Department hopes residents will utilize these transportation options over the weekend.

“Don’t take the risk — plan ahead and designate a responsible, sober driver if you are planning to have a drink or two on New Year’s Eve,” Kettler said. “Additional officers will be out patrolling the city looking for drunk drivers and problem-makers before and after midnight.”