By Brooke Steger
Today, in and around Seattle, there are more than 600,000 riders and more than 10,000 drivers who use Uber. Having started as the GM of Seattle four years ago, and now overseeing the entire Pacific Northwest, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many of the drivers who provide safe, reliable rides to people throughout the region each and every day.
The rapid growth of Uber has brought benefits to riders and drivers. For riders, especially those in historically underserved neighborhoods, drivers have brought a real increase in access to more affordable and reliable transportation options. For drivers, using Uber means the ability to easily turn on work and flexibly make money on one’s own schedule.
Uber driver partners reflect the diversity of our great city. They are young and old, men and women, from all walks of life, and from all over the world. Through efforts like the Peer Advisor program, we have worked to develop a close working relationship with all Seattle drivers.
Engagement in the East African Community
I’m particularly proud of our special relationship with drivers from Seattle’s East African community, as they are some of our earliest and longest-standing partners here. We have supported the East African community through involvement with organizations like the International Rescue Committee Seattle, Somali Community Services of Seattle, Ethiopian Community in Seattle, and Eritrean Community in Seattle and Vicinity. We’ve also awarded scholarships to drivers and their family members though the College Success Foundation, and customer service training for drivers in partnership with Seattle Goodwill.
While Uber serves as a way for many drivers–especially those among our city’s newest residents–to gain a foothold in our region’s robust economy, we as a company also make it a priority to engage and support communities beyond simply making sure we’re a source of economic opportunity. When the president initially announced his travel ban, Uber’s legal and operations teams quickly came together to extend support to drivers and their families across the country who were impacted.
Here in Seattle, I am extremely proud of the work our team did to help Somali driver Elias Abdi reconnect with his wife and son who were stuck in limbo at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Through the assistance of attorneys at Uber and third-party counselors from a number of the top immigration law firms in the country, Elias and other drivers were given renewed hope, and eventually reunited with their families.
We are also so proud to be the first-ever presenting sponsor of the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America’s Soccer Tournament and Cultural Festival. Like Seattle’s Somali community, the Ethiopian community here is an important part of the cultural fabric of this great city. Seattle is lucky to host this terrific event and all the Ethiopian players and their families who traveled here to attend it.
In addition, the PNW Uber team has partnered with Juma Ventures to ensure low-income summer interns participating in their summer youth employment program are able to get to and from their job sites; with Mary’s Place to provide funding for their Empower U internship program and reliable transportation for their shelter guests; and with the International Rescue Committee Seattle to help refugees with professional backgrounds find their way back onto a career track and get rides to job interviews and career coaching. These partnerships and others leverage Uber’s unique ability to address barriers to mobility and economic opportunity.
Engagement with the broader community and drivers
We’re also working with Tabor 100 and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle to increase access to economic opportunity for residents of all backgrounds throughout the city, and we’ve provided financial assistance to Hope Academic Enrichment Center and Seattle Junior Seahawks to help both organizations positively impact the lives of youth in our communities. To learn more about how Uber in the PNW is giving back, visit http://t.uber.com/communityimpact.
Seattle is also at the forefront when it comes to drivers working directly with local Uber staff to develop ways to make our company better. The Peer Advisor program is now more than a year old with thousands of members, and driver feedback has played a central role in many decisions that have led to improvements for both riders and drivers, like the recent addition of the option to leave tips. We know there’s still more work to do, so we look forward to ongoing engagement with drivers, which will help us to continually improve.
Like many of the Uber drivers I’ve talked to from other parts of the world–whether it’s East Africa, Eastern Europe, or South America–I’m extremely proud to call Seattle home. We are lucky to share this city. The nearby mountains, the Puget Sound and lakes, as well as our inclusive and accepting values, all contribute to making this part of the world a beautiful place.
I’m committed to a meaningful, direct, two-way relationship with drivers in Seattle for many years to come. It is what will help us all keep Uber successful and growing.
Brooke Steger is Uber’s General Manager for the Pacific Northwest