EUGENE, Ore. — The world athletics championships are less than a month away, but the city of Eugene is experiencing a shortage of carpools and taxi drivers.
“The number of Uber and Lyft drivers is down significantly from pre-pandemic levels,” said Andy Vobora, vice president of stakeholder relations for Travel Lane County. “We had 2,000 drivers in town before the pandemic hit and we are less than 400 now.”
Vobora said Travel Lane County has even reached out to corporate executives to try to bring former drivers back on board.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is contacting some of these drivers before and seeing if they’re ready and able to drive here again,” Vobora said.
Drivers at Eugene Elite Taxi said call volumes had recently increased with people asking about the World Championships in Athletics.
“With the Worlds approaching, things are really starting to heat up,” said rider and company partner Melissa Turenne. “We are actively training new riders and actively trying to prepare.”
Turenne said it was difficult to find drivers and she encourages riders to make travel reservations in advance.
“Eugene is a city with transportation difficulties,” Turenne said. “There are fewer taxis on the road and fewer carpool drivers [because of the pandemic].”
There are several alternative options for those wishing to get around Eugene if carpooling or rental car options are hard to come by. One option is Arcimoto, an electric vehicle company based in Eugene.
“Our fun utility vehicles have speeds of up to 75 miles per hour and a range of 102 miles in the city,” said communications manager Jonathan Miller. “It’s an awesome way to explore Eugene.”
With the weather warming up, Miller said more and more people have inquired about renting the vehicles.
“We got a lot of calls this week because it’s the first real week of summer,” Miller said. “It’s a great opportunity for visitors to try a totally different vehicle experience.”
Arcimoto vehicle rental rates are $55 for 2 hours. Miller said the company currently offers up to three days of overnight options, but can accommodate those who wish to extend their rental.
Another option for those who don’t want to drive is PeaceHealth Rides, a bike-sharing system operated by the nonprofit organization Cascadia Mobility. Officials say PeaceHealth Rides will add 300 bikes to its fleet, and staff will work around the clock to stock bikes at hubs near Hayward Field and the Eugene Riverfront Festival. Those interested in this option are encouraged to download the PeaceHealth Rides app.
While officials expect congestion near the University of Oregon campus during the World Championships in Athletics, they said travel shouldn’t be a problem.
“We just had the OU graduation with students from the previous year. Also, you think about 60,000 people for a football game at Autzen Stadium,” Vobora said. “The difference with that is that it stretches over ten days. So the volume of people is less than a football game, less than some of these big events, it’s just that the duration is longer .”
Authorities are also encouraging travelers to look into parking and shuttle options. Vobora said Valley River Center will have an area for it.
KEZI reached out to Uber and Lyft for plans during the World Championships in Athletics.
An Uber spokesperson said:
“It’s hard to predict what will happen in July because we don’t know how many drivers will be on the road in the area and how many passenger demands there will be. Once we know what the supply looks like, incentives can be used to attract drivers from neighboring areas.”
A Lyft spokesperson said:
“With more people starting to travel again, we are seeing demand for rides outpace the number of available drivers and continue to add drivers to the platform. As with any major event, the common sense rule of leaving enough time to get to/from your destination should apply. It may also be useful to remind passengers that our Wait & Save mode is available and guarantees the best price for passengers who are not in a hurry.”