LEWISTON — Smartphone app-based ride-sharing service Uber moves into the Twin Cities as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the company announced Monday.

“Our goal when we launch into new markets is to ensure that riders can get a ride reliably, right away,” Cathy Zhou, the general manager for Uber in Maine, said. “When they open up that app on Wednesday, they will be able to see drivers in the area and they will be able to get an ride within minutes.”

Zhou said Uber has offered ride-sharing services in Portland since the fall of 2014. She said riders can use the service to purchase rides around Lewiston and Auburn, down to Portland and up to Bangor beginning Wednesday.

She expects college students will the service’s best customers in the Twin Cities.

“You have Bates College and the University of Southern Maine campus,” she said. “This gives college students a way to get around town and get home at night, reliably and affordably.”

The service pairs drivers and riders via a smartphone app — available for iPhones and Android phones  — and operates in many ways like a taxicab.

Riders open the app on their phone to call for a ride from a local driver. The app estimates how much the ride will cost and how quickly a driver will be there to pick them up.

“But before they get into a vehicle, they are shown a photo of the driver along with their first name, the vehicle’s license number, make and model,” Zhou said. “Every trip is tracked with GPS, so you can share your ETA and send a text to a friend or family. At the end, you get a receipt so you can see the route you took.”

No money changes hands between driver and rider. The rider registers their credit card with the app when they sign up for the service and they’re charged for a ride that way.

The driver is paid a service fee by Uber weekly, equal to roughly 75 percent of the fares they generated.

At the end of the trip, the rider and the driver rate each other, Zhou said.

“We are using technology to enhance the safety of every trip and the accountability of the system,” Zhou said.

Cab driver Ron Goulett of Tri-Town Taxi said the service is certainly not like a local cab. As a cab driver, he has to register with the city, have special license plates and special insurance. He’s complained about the service to the state, he said.

“They said they may have to have new legislation to deal with this company,” he said. “I don’t know what there is to legislate. It’s very clear that this is not legal. If I was doing it, they’d pull me off the road in a heartbeat.”

But Zhou said most local taxi companies find their service grows when Uber arrives.

“When there are more transportation options available, people are more likely to go out,” she said. “People can take a cab on the way out and know they can take an Uber on the way back. We think more choice is a good thing for residents and visitors. It’s good for the rider side of things, and it’s good for the driver side.”

Deputy City Clerk Kelly Brooks said the clerk’s department would have to investigate the Uber service.

As far as fares are concerned, local taxis look pretty good compared to the Uber service. A ride from Bates College to The Public Theatre on Lisbon Street would cost $6 on Uber.

Goulett said he would charge between $4 and $5, depending on the campus location where the rider was picked up. 

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