According to the general manager for Uber Michigan, the 60-day trial in Macomb County is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.
(TNS) -- Michael Sarzynski says he's not a "high-tech guy," but when the retired UPS driver was summoned to jury duty on June 18, he logged on to his iPad and arranged to have a Uber driver take him to court and back. The best part? It was free.
The 64-year-old Sterling Heights, Mich., resident was the first person to use the free ride service for Macomb County Circuit Court jurors under a pilot program offered by the ride sharing company through a partnership with the county clerk's office.
"We got there safely ... and it didn't cost me a dime," Sarzynski said. "It was great."
The pilot program, officially announced this week, is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., said Michael White, general manager for Uber Michigan. He said depending on its success, it could be continued beyond the 60-day trial period in Macomb County and expand to other counties in southeast Michigan and the state.
Uber is covering the cost of the pilot program, with neither jurors nor the county spending a cent for the rides. And jurors continue to receive their regular jury pay of $30 for the first day and $45 for subsequent days of service, clerk's officials said.
White said Uber has thousands of drivers in Michigan after launching in the region in 2013, but it doesn't break down the number in Macomb County for proprietary reasons.
"We're definitely optimistic about the potential here," he said.
The county clerk's office approached Uber about the idea. Uber agreed, with White saying it saw an opportunity to help a local community while increasing the service's exposure to county residents.
"They can see how it works and choose to use Uber again, such as meeting with their friends. Now they have the app to try it on their own," White said."
County Clerk/Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh said the program "connects jurors with safe rides, frees up parking in the city, and creates an opportunity for Macomb County residents to earn extra cash by driving jurors to court to do their civic duty."
The program started about two weeks ago, and several people have used it already.
After jurors receive a summons and answer an online questionnaire, they will get a unique Macomb County Juror Uber link to create an Uber account. Riders are encouraged to use the fare estimate feature in the Uber app to determine if the promotional code covers the round-trip fare, clerk's officials said.
Jurors will receive an Uber code for a $20 ride each way or $40 round-trip to and from the courthouse. That price should cover most of the county, with a few far-reaching locations possibly charged more. The first $20, however, will be covered by Uber, White said.
Rides must start or end at the circuit court building in Mt. Clemens. Jurors serving more than one day can use the program only once at no expense, but they have another free option to get to court — free bus tickets through SMART, a partnership Sabaugh started in 2004.
Sarzynski said he doesn't have a smartphone, but he used his iPad to set up his ride the morning of jury duty. It was only his second time being selected for jury duty and his first using Uber, although he said his son has used it in London and Paris.
He read that it was harder to get parking around the courthouse, with a county lot closed as part of a $65-million renovation project at the county's downtown Mt. Clemens campus. He determined that if the service was free and it didn't cost the county, he'd try it.
Now he'd encourage other jurors to use it, too.
Sarzynski said a clean car arrived at his doorstep within eight minutes. He was at the courthouse a half-day, and on the return trip the driver dropped him off to meet his wife, who was surprised to see him. His trip, he said, would have cost $11.79 to the courthouse and $7 to his drop-off location.
"I think this is a good thing here that will help people, especially if it's tight parking or they haven't been (to the court) before," he said.
©2015 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.