Ridesharing service Uber celebrated its first weekend of rides in Alaska by throwing a party for all of its drivers at the 49th State Brewing Company on Tuesday night.
Uber Territory Manager David Williams from Seattle said the company provided more than 1,000 rides in Anchorage alone over the first weekend since the state government legalized ridesharing services.
The star of the party, however, was an Uber employee in any way, shape or form, but was being celebrated as the man singularly responsible for the arrival of ridesharing in Alaska.
Being born legally blind didn’t stop Sam Moore from becoming a certified public accountant; nor did it stop him from following his heart, moving up to Anchorage from Washington D.C. nearly five years ago in pursuit of love.
“I moved up here to see about a woman,” Moore said. “It never ends well but it’s a shockingly common story.”
In his work life, Moore eschews the assistance of modern technology, using a hand-held magnifying glass to read spreadsheets. But when it comes to transportation, Moore has been at the forefront of the charge to bring ridesharing, and the technology companies that make it work, to Alaska.
“It’s a life-changing technology,” he said. “I can’t see well enough to drive, so something like Uber gives me transportation and mobility options… It really assists the last mile problem.”
President of his community council, Moore has been taking his case to the municipal assembly for years and has even paid his own way to Juneau to lobby state legislators.
“Actual advocating is as simple as writing your legislators,” Moore said. “I had decent name recognition, so I went on talk radio, writing letters to the Anchorage Press — those things matter. In the last six months, I’ve flown on my own dime down to Juneau to ram this point home. It’s shaking hands and telling legislators this is actually important and you should vote in favor of it.”
Moore said most of the pushback he encountered while advocating for ridesharing was mostly unfounded.
“A lot of the resistance has been with safety and there’s always to anything new to any market,” he said. “The government says it wants to protect people from themselves, but it’s really a nonsensical argument. It’s easy to say ‘public safety’, but things like fingerprinting (drivers) doesn’t make riders any safer. Fingerprinting does nothing to ensure a proper background check. In fact, it can prevent quality drivers, who may have something (unrelated) in their past from being able to drive.”
Williams said the value of Moore’s story can’t be understated in Uber’s launch.
“I think it’s fair to say this might not have happened without Sam,” Williams said. “A story like his goes such a long way convincing people that rides are essential. Things you might take for granted, other people can’t take for granted, so the work Sam put in was absolutely a heroic lift for us.”
With his vision problems, Moore sometimes has difficulty even taking a bus.
“Occasionally at the bus stop I’ll have a hard time until the very end figuring out what line it is,” Moore said.Though Moore’s journey to the Last Frontier began with heartache, he’s not one bit sorry he made the move — especially now.
“I love Alaska,” he said. “I’ve been everywhere, from Bethel to Juneau to Valdez. I’m an accountant so that’s something you can do anywhere. I really love this state and Uber will help me enjoy this state even more.”