Uber driving service hits Myrtle Beach streets Thursday, city says drivers operating illegally

Those who have heard of the driving service Uber in other parts of the country now are able to catch rides around the Myrtle Beach area as of Thursday, but city officials say the service is operating illegally.

uberX, the low-cost wing of Uber Technologies Inc., allows those needing a ride to connect with local drivers at a price the company says is cheaper than those offered by taxicabs. To provide rides through uberX, drivers must pass a background and driving history check, according to a press release.

As of noon Thursday, uberX said drivers would be available in Myrtle Beach and three other S.C. cities – Charleston, Greenville and Columbia.

Those needing a ride can download the Uber app on their smart phone and request to be picked up by the closest driver.

But Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said the transportation service does not have the necessary permits to operate in the city legally.

“Please know that this taxi business does not have a business license to operate in the city of Myrtle Beach,” he said in a statement. “Further, no certificates of convenience and necessity have been issued for any vehicles which would provide such a taxi service inside the city. In other words, Uber is not legally authorized to conduct business in the city of Myrtle Beach at this time.”

Kaitlin Durkosh, a representative with Uber, said that Uber is not a transportation company.

“We're a technology company that connects riders to drivers with the safest ride on the road,” she said in an email. “The bottom line is we've received overwhelmingly positive support from riders in South Carolina who are excited for access to safe, affordable and reliable transportation alternatives, and from drivers who rely on the increased economic opportunities and flexibility Uber provides. We look forward to continuing conversations with city and state officials to modernize regulations and find a permanent home for Uber in South Carolina.”

According to Uber’s press release, rides from Broadway at the Beach to North Ocean Boulevard will cost about $5, and those from Myrtle Beach International Airport to 70th Avenue North will cost about $22.

Kruea said the city actively enforces business licenses and works to ensure those operating taxi services are doing so lawfully.

“We have people on staff who look into those things,” Kruea said when asked how drivers operating without proper licensing would be tracked down.

Those who are caught without a business license or certificate of convenience – referred to as a taxi medallion – could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $500 plus court costs and/or 30 days in jail upon conviction, Kruea said. Each day of illegal operation is a separate violation.

For more information about uberX in South Carolina, visit http://blog.uber.com/SCLovesUber.