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Uber to launch in Ocean City, St. Michaels on Friday

Now you can hail an Uber in 20 beach towns along the East Coast.

Uber will start offering rides to smartphone-equipped beachgoers and vacationers in Ocean City and St. Michaels at 5 p.m. Friday, the popular rideshare company announced Thursday.

"Uber is growing our Maryland family and heading to the shore — just in time for Memorial Day weekend!" the company said in a statement.

It also announced service in more than 20 other beach towns along the East Coast.

Rides will start with a base fare of $2.76, with 19 cents per minute and $1.52 per mile added after that, Uber said. Uber already operates in Baltimore and Annapolis, and in certain suburbs around the Baltimore-Washington area.

It's expansion to the Eastern Shore comes after it and other companies like it, including Lyft, won a key victory in Annapolis this past session, when legislators passed a bill outlining a new framework for the companies to operate legally in the state.

Prior to the legislation passing, Uber had been in a protracted dispute over regulations with the Maryland Public Service Commission and representatives from the state's traditional taxi industry.

Part of the dispute centered around the ability of independent jurisdictions — like Ocean City or Annapolis — to regulate the companies differently than in other parts of the state.

The new law allows local jurisdictions to levy fees on ride-sharing trips, as they do on taxi fares, but blocks them from independently regulating ride-share operations.

As vacation destinations, the populations of Ocean City and St. Michaels swell dramatically over the summer, and many services are seasonal in town. Asked whether the Uber service would be seasonal, an Uber spokesman said the company would be "constantly evaluating" demand.

"Beginning operations this summer is a way for us to see how a new option like Uber works in these beach cities, where ways to move around town haven't changed in many years," said Taylor Bennett, the spokesman.

krector@baltsun.com

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