Ride-hailing enterprise Uber will begin testing its newest feature next week exclusively in Colorado Springs — allowing users to pay in cash for their trip.

Beginning Jan. 17, riders in the area will no longer have to submit credit card information via Uber’s smartphone app. Any change from a cash fare will be credited toward the user’s next ride or cashed out via PayPal.

Only if a rider doesn’t have enough cash to pay for the trip will they will be required to add a credit card to their Uber account, said Uber representative Taylor Patterson.

“The idea is to provide reliable transportation for everyone, anywhere, and we need to be willing to try new things in order to do that,” Patterson said.

Why Colorado Springs?

It’s not a huge market for Uber, but still sizeable, she said.

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“We have a very solid ridership here and an extremely solid driver base,” Patterson said, adding, “We have drivers who are very committed and open and eager to try new things.”

The Uber cash system exists in 150 cities abroad and Uber plans to offer it in more U.S. cities after piloting in Colorado Springs. Traditionally Uber and other transportation network companies, including Lyft, don’t offer a cash option. Uber, however, would like to broaden its customer reach, Patterson said.

 “This gives more people access to Uber in order to get where they need go,” she said.

Uber rates will remain the same for cash trips, Patterson said.

 “And for drivers not interested in taking cash rides, the app will include an opt-out feature,” she said.

 Uber will notify drivers and users of the new option via email, app message and during trainings this week in Colorado Springs.

“We’re making sure everyone is up to speed and understanding how it works before we get it going,” she said. “We feel riders and drivers will benefit and be receptive with this kind of product.”

Airport access

Uber is also working with Colorado Springs Airport to return services there after being discontinued Dec. 5 due to issues with the airport’s new ping system.

Uber notified the airport this week that it plans to have a compatible system developed by mid-February, according to Troy Stover, interim director at the airport.

“We’ve been working with them every week because they want to be here and we want them to be here,” he said. “It’s just required some fine tuning and establishing a contractual relationship.”

Uber wanted to keep with a self-reporting system, providing numbers to the airport as they track drivers in the vicinity.

“Self-reporting doesn’t cost the airport anything and typically this type of [ping] system is only used at large airports, such as San Francisco International Airport,” Patterson said, adding, “It’s not even used at Denver International Airport.”

But Troy Stover, interim director at COS, said the next step required airport personnel to audit the numbers, demanding too much time and effort, and they therefore chose the ping system developed by the American Association of Airport Executives.

“It was out of due diligence and fiscal responsibility,” he said. “It takes care of billing electronically and is a low-cost operating system. We’re seeing more and more airports switch to the AAAE’s system because it’s accurate and less time consuming.”

 And the airport wants to provide a fair and equitable platform for transportation services he said, adding transportation network companies weren’t initially paying fees to use airport.

“Shuttles, cab companies and limos buy transponders from the airport and pay fees through our gate system,” Stover said. “But because transponders don’t fit TNCs’ business model, they had to come up with a different system.”

 After the ping system was installed in November, Lyft became compliant right away and was able to continue services at the airport, Stover said.

“It seems Uber has now been able to step this up in priorities and technologies,” he said. “We truly believe TNCs are a thing of the future at airports and great service for passengers.”