Although I live in Minneapolis now, I grew up about 90 miles south of Minneapolis in Rochester, MN. For those of you that aren’t aware, Rochester is a neat little place. It’s also a strange little place that has been in a state of change for a number of years now.
The folk song of Rochester quickly summarized goes as follows: Once upon a time there was a small farming community with a Franciscan convent. On August 12, 1883, a mighty storm raged across the plains and a tornado set down in the valley killing 24 people and injuring 100 more. A local physician named William Worrall Mayo partnered with the Sisters of Saint Francis to create a hospital to treat the injured.
This hospital has grown and evolved into one of the premier medical centers in the world.
Today, the Mayo Clinic is expanding rapidly and there are 25,000 jobs set to be created as the clinic grows into what has been dubbed “Destination Medical Center.”
Destination Medical Center is a civic plan that is attempting to solve some of the urbanism issues that are arising from rapid growth, one of the most prominent being that roads, bridges, and sewers are very expensive to both construct and support. It is for this reason that DMC suggests an infrastructure improvement into transit. DMC states that “Developing transportation solutions will involve a comprehensive assessment of current transportation needs and a plan to accommodate a more multi-modal approach to improve travel for residents and visitors into the future.”
Enter San Francisco based Uber: a ride share program in which private vehicles function as taxi cabs 24 hours a day. Uber is currently disallowed by law in Rochester, and in order for it to be allowed in the city, City Council would need to vote to allow it. This upcoming vote has spawned two petitions: one by the taxi cab drivers who are against Uber and one that welcomes Uber to the city.
It’s my opinion that Rochester’s city council should allow Uber to come to town. Although I do believe a continued steady investment into bike infrastructure and public transit is necessary in order to fulfill what the DMC plan is attempting, I think Uber will fill a critical stop gap as those infrastructure improvements are being made. The DMC agrees with me in and in an unprecedented move has sent a letter to city council recommending Uber be allowed in Rochester.
Olmsted County’s demographics are rapid changing as it is growing. Baby boomers are growing older and will be finding themselves in need of medical assistance. Because of that need, a diverse group of millennial nurses and care providers are finding work in Rochester by taking care of the aging baby boomers. This causes a transit need for both groups. Uber is a solution to both of those needs.
Aging baby boomers are rapidly finding themselves unable to drive due to medical issues or simply their advancing age. Uber can be a low cost way for seniors to retain their independence as they age. In fact, enabling seniors to continue to have independent ways to socialize and learn new things can delay Dementia and help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A low cost car sharing service would be a great resource for these soon to be seniors in the Rochester area.
And for the other demographic? Care providers and nurses can also benefit from Uber. Given the odd schedules of the medical professional, having a 24 hour service where a person can get an affordable ride home at any hour while waiting in the warmth and safety of their own home will give transit options to a growing group of millennial care providers.
This seems simple to me. Allowing Uber into Rochester is a way to give much needed transit options to all of the growing demographics of a growing city. Beyond that, it’s an option that costs the civic government and the tax payer literally nothing. And it’s a solution that can be implemented immediately.
After a heated council debate that went until 4 am (!!), the vote on Uber is currently split 3-3. I hope that the city council will vote in favor of a reasonable ordinance that empowers the citizens of Rochester to greater mobility as their city grows larger.