Providing a ‘Lyft’
Tom Palfey says he has found the perfect part-time job.
“I love to drive, I love to travel and I love to talk to people. I get to do it when I want to do it. I can turn it off when I am tired,” said Palfey, physical education and health teacher at Altoona Area High School.
Palfey, who had been a football coach in the school district for 21 years, has been driving for Uber, one of the nation’s two biggest transportation network services, for nearly three years.
“If I can take all the time I put into coaching into Uber, I would make that much in a year. I get to choose the time. That has replaced my coaching hours,” Palfey said.
Uber now operates in all 67 Pennsylvania counties and has about 32,000 drivers across the state, said Craig Ewer, Uber spokesman.
Palfey said he got the idea to become an Uber driver from his niece Allison Lilly while visiting her in San Francisco — where Uber started — a few years ago.
Palfey also drives for Lyft, which is also now available across Pennsylvania. The two services are similar.
Both require hooking up to a smartphone app to use the service. There are both driver and passenger apps.
“When you use the Uber app, a list of drivers shows up. You type in where you want to go; it gives you an estimate of the cost,” Palfey said.
Palfey said he started to drive in the State College area — Uber did not come to Altoona until August 2016.
“I go to State College for football weekends. My favorite night is the Friday before a Penn State home game. Game day is the most chaotic you will ever do, but the money is so good. You can make $900 to $1,000 on a football weekend,” Palfey said.
Palfey said he usually drives after school in the Altoona area on weekdays.
Palfey’s brother-in-law, Mike Scheinberg, co-manager at Kranich’s Jewelers in Altoona, has been driving for Uber for about a year.
“I wanted to make extra money. I work in retail and get off at 9:30 p.m. I enjoy meeting people. It works for my schedule. If I was not doing this, I would be sitting at home and eating. I have made 500 trips to get someone from a bar to their home,” Scheinberg said.
Josh Aboud, an AT&T employee and local representative for Communication Workers of America, Local 13000, said he’s been driving for Uber for about a year and a half. He also drives for Lyft.
“I was looking for a part-time job and it fit the bill. I could work when I wanted and be my own boss. That was what was most appealing to me,” Aboud said.
The local Uber drivers — there are about eight in the Altoona area — are pleased with the experience.
“This has been great. I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories. I met Jose Reyes (New York Mets shortstop) when he was here on a rehab assignment. My second ride was Christian Hackenberg (former Penn State quarterback), his linemen and his girlfriend,” Palfey said.
“In 11 months, it has been very positive,” Scheinberg said. “I have met a lot of different people. I am an extrovert. I enjoy meeting people, and it gets me out of the house.”
Aboud has enjoyed the experience but has some issues with Uber’s GPS system.
“The only thing that is frustrating with Uber is their poor GPS and poor customer service dealing with issues with the app itself. Their GPS is horrible. You end up taking people to places that don’t exist. My biggest complaint is the functionality of the app,” Aboud said.
The local drivers said they feel safe while picking up passengers.
“I have done over 3,000 trips, and I never felt I was threatened or unsafe. You feel pretty good giving a lot of drunk people a ride and keeping them off the road,” Palfey said.
“Ninety-nine percent of those who get in the car are good people and are gracious. There are a lot of people who need rides for a lot of reasons,” Scheinberg said.
The local drivers encourage others to look into becoming drivers.
“This is paying interest on four kids’ college bills. I think it is incredible. You can name your own hours and be your own boss,” Palfey said.
“You can turn it on at your whim; you can work when you want to,” Scheinberg said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.