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Uber riding steady in Philly, eyes growth here and beyond

Being a baller is not gender specific. Uber, the new black car service in Philadelphia, is a heck of a guy magnet (it works wonders on chicks, too). Launched here last month, Uber takes taxicabs to task, providing concierge level service for just a few dollars more. Most rides within Center City cost the $15 minimum. And it's hella sexy to pick up your date in a chauffeur driven limo. 
Uber just announced tiered service here, following the lead of New York and San Francisco, two other Uber-serviced cities. If you want a standard town car, it's $15, and a swanky SUV goes for $25. In the first weeks of the service, it was the luck of the draw. Sometimes a celebrity style whip showed up, and other times it was the sedan. Now it's possible to choose.
Uber relies on a smartphone app, available for Android and iOS. Launch Uber to get a map of currently available drivers, click to order, and you'll be set for pickup. Along the way, you receive SMS updates about the location of your driver. You can set pickup for another location. One customer, according to Adria Hou, Philadelphia General Manager for Uber, sets his Uber pickup from 30th Street Station while on the Amtrak coming down from New York. Credit card information is already stored, so no cash changes hands.
Hou says Uber marketing relies solely on word of mouth, and that week over week growth here is in line with total company growth. Based in San Francisco, with a total of 60 employees and $44.5 million in venture funding, Uber provides on demand car service in 13 cities internationally, with plans to expand next to Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. Expansion in Washington, D.C., however, has proved dicey.
The main challenge is growing the customer base, says Hou. "Our core users are the tech community." From there, word spreads. Once you experience an Uber ride, it's a challenge to go back to the standard taxi experience. While the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is in charge of the city's taxicab medallion service, may grumble, Hou says Uber is in compliance with the rules. "It's about places where it's hard to get a cab," says Hou. Locations like Fishtown and South Philly are pain points where Uber works most efficiently.
The lean three person Philadelphia team is headquartered at SeedPhilly at 1650 Arch, and will grow over time, says Hou. Uber currently operates between 50 to 100 cars, working in partnership with a variety of already existing limo services here in the city.

Source: Adria Hou, Uber
Writer: Sue Spolan
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