Danville tourism leaders want more Uber, Lyft drivers

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The lack of reliable transportation options for overnight visitors is becoming more of a concern for the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Having better transportation available could benefit local residents, too, according to CVB board members who discussed the issue during a board meeting Monday.

“That’s a big void in our tourism,” said board member Shane White.

Board member and Hampton Inn General Manager Susan Megilligan said one local taxi service offers “sporadic” service in the area.

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When people fly into Stuart Powell Field on business, many times they need transportation to the motels, Airbnb’s and restaurants. Business travelers, vacationers, wedding guests and visiting families often rely on public transportation to get from their lodgings to restaurants and shopping opportunities, especially to the downtown district, said CVB Executive Director Jennifer Kirchner.

Local hotels don’t offer shuttle services because of the cost of liability insurance, Megilligan said.

And the Blue Grass Ultra-Transit Service doesn’t have routes that include the hotels, Kirchner added.

Board Chair Brittney Adams, who is owner of Warrenwood Manor, said many times after a 10 p.m. send-off following a wedding, “everybody is still wanting to party. They want to go downtown, and they need a way to get there. … Most people are from out-of-town or out-of-state,” and they expect that mobile-phone-based car services such as Uber or Lyft drivers are readily available.

Board member Alex McCroskey, who owns Harvey’s restaurant in downtown Danville, said, “I can’t tell you how many times in my business I see, especially at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, and a guy’s had two or three beers and he doesn’t want to drive. And so he wants to call a cab, Uber or Lyft, whatever in today’s time, and they’re just not there. They’re here on the weekends, but on Wednesday night, you can forget about it.”

Kirchner said people who live out in the county may want to come downtown or to one of the restaurants on the south end of town, but decide not to because they don’t want to drive after having a drink or two. Sometimes, people just don’t feel like driving to dinner, she added.

CVB Assistant Director Jamee Peyton said she found that there’s only one Lyft driver in town, “and he’s off the radar and not really doing anything” and works on his own schedule.

One Uber driver lives in Danville and “she would love to work in Danville,” Peyton said. But “she can’t, she has to go to Lexington to make any money.”

Peyton suggested maybe the CVB could find a way to contact drivers and let them know when the hotels are full or special events are scheduled so they would be in town to help with the transportation shortage.

“I can’t tell you on Saturday, how disappointing it is for me to walk outside and see an empty Main Street and knowing you’re full,” McCrosky said. “How we direct that traffic from the south end of town to the downtown is crucial because our community is based downtown. The perception of who we are is what our downtown is.”

The CVB needs to figure out a way to get visitors from the hotels to the downtown district, which is just two and a half miles away, McCrosky said. “When they leave Danville and for them to want to come back, they need to see our downtown. I mean that our small downtown is going to make them want to come back.”

Holiday Inn Express Manager Martha Johnson said they refer many of their clients to Colonel Cab, dispatched out of Richmond. “We run him ragged,” Johnson told the CVB members.

“We definitely need transportation around here.” She said employees from Corning and Hitachi travel in groups, but rent only one car. They may not always want to do and do the same thing, Johnson said, “so they’re stuck.”

Also, when families visit Centre College they often fly into Lexington and take an Uber to the Danville hotel. But then they’re stuck, because they didn’t rent a car and were planning on using a taxi service. Johnson said she’s used her personal vehicle several times to get the families from the hotel to the college. She said “People from other states are used to a taxi service. They assume since it’s a college town,” there wouldn’t be any transportation problems. When they find out otherwise, “they’re surprised!”