Don’t Subsidize Uber in Wheeling

Wheeling officials would like to persuade Uber, the international ride-sharing company, to operate in our city. That could provide new income for some local residents, while filling in some gaps in transportation services.

Convincing Uber to operate in a city has become something of a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses situation. The thinking in some towns may be that if you’re not big enough to support Uber, well, you’re not big enough. Uber provides a sort of prestige.

In many places it provides a sought-after service, too. Even where buses and taxi cabs operate, Uber can fill in gaps in their routes and hours.

People who own vehicles and are willing to work with Uber to transport paying riders can pick up a few extra bucks, too.

All that makes Wheeling City Council’s decision to invite Uber to establish operations here a wise one.

To date, however, Uber is present in only two West Virginia cities, Charleston and Morgantown. The company has no plans to expand in the Mountain State.

That could change, of course, as an Uber spokesman told our reporter. In doing so, he mentioned an approach taken in Gainesville, Fla., where senior citizens are served by the company. The “Freedom in Motion” initiative offers fares that do not exceed $5.

There is a big “but” involved in Gainesville, however. It is that “Freedom in Motion” is a partnership between Uber and that city’s government. Gainesville taxpayers coughed up $15,000 to get the program moving.

Wheeling officials should not consider paying Uber to compete, in effect, with the public transit system and existing taxi service. If Uber wants to come here, fine — but not by taking local taxpayers for a ride.