By Hazel Ford–
Many things have changed over the decades since doors first opened at Kniesel’s Automotive Service Center on Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights. One of the more recent changes has been how the company handles free shuttle services for its customers by partnering with Uber’s ride-hailing service.
For the past three years, Kniesel’s General Manager Bryan Pearson said his shop has been outsourcing much of its shuttle services to Uber drivers, with the results being a “win-win” for both Kniesel’s and its customers. The company currently enlists Uber’s services to provide rides for customers living outside Kniesel’s in-house shuttle’s 10-mile radius, or outside the limited hours in which the company shuttle still operates.
Kniesel’s offers two shuttles between its three locations, one for its Sacramento shop, and the other running between the company’s Roseville location and the local Citrus Heights shop. Rides from the conventional shuttle are available for customers from 8-9:15 a.m. in the morning and 3:45-5 p.m. in the evenings.
In an email interview with The Sentinel, Pearson said working with Uber has been “great all around,” allowing his company to “offer rides at any hour and almost anywhere,” within reason.
Asked whether there were any downsides, Pearson said older customers were at first a little apprehensive about the change, but after his staff explained to them that it was like a “private taxi” and that the Uber phone app was able to display driver profiles and the type of car they would be picked up in, he said clients of any age now love the service.
“Our younger clients saw it as Kniesel’s being current, embracing technology, and staying abreast of current trends to be easier to do business with,” Pearson said. “Any demographic was a win-win.”
Uber and the traditional in-house shuttle together have given customers flexible options and improved client’s relationship with the business. “We’ve looked at getting rid of our shuttles and using Uber exclusively,” Pearson added. “In the end, we’ve chosen to keep both as this is ultimately about versatility for the client.”
Asked about cost differences between the in-house shuttle and Uber, Pearson said “from a cost standpoint it’s not ever been about which is cheaper.” He said Kniesel’s doesn’t track cost-per-ride or the quantity of rides, but he said between all three company locations, the cost is about $2,300 per month for Uber rides, with several rides a day from the Citrus Heights location being common.
Rather than cost factors, he said offering a shuttle option to clients that helps make it easier to do business with Kniesel’s has been the primary factor in deciding to work with Uber.
According to Uber’s online fare calculator, estimated per-ride costs run about $10-14 for a 6-mile trip from Kniesel’s to American River College, while a shorter trip within a one-mile range could be as low as $6.
Those costs, as well as a reported 5-10 minute pickup time for customers, have been attractive to Kniesel’s neighboring business, Kniesel’s Collision, which shares the same name but is now “completely separate,” according to General Manager Travis Williams.
Williams said his shop will be trying out Uber by the first of the year, noting cost savings and efficiency with having customers picked up quickly and also not having the vehicle maintenance, insurance costs, and liability of an in-house shuttle driver on the road.
The idea for Uber’s ride-hailing service originated with Travis Kalanick and Canadian businessman Garrett Camp in 2008 and led to a startup the following year that revolutionized the taxi business. The company started with an app that offered ride-hailing in a few select metropolitan areas and has expanded into a global service — and continues to expand with more service options.
Last year, the City of Dublin became the first California city to have its public transit system partner with Uber and Lyft, currently offering a 50% subsidy up to $5 for those who opt to use UberPOOL or Lyft Line carpools for in-city transportation. The area’s transit authority has said the subsidy is being offered as a way to give routes with low bus ridership a more cost-efficient on-demand alternative.
Not stopping at revolutionizing ground transportation, Uber’s latest announcement for service expansion has been its plans to work with NASA to introduce flying cars to Los Angeles by 2020.
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