September 12, 2018

Contributed
After Hurricane Irma savaged his house and two family cars, Steven Schluter determined that being a self-employed driver for Uber and Lyft offered good prospects in Marathon.

Contributed After Hurricane Irma savaged his house and two family cars, Steven Schluter determined that being a self-employed driver for Uber and Lyft offered good prospects in Marathon.

MARATHON — Hurricane Irma brought a loss of control and heartache to residents throughout the Florida Keys, but for some it brought opportunity.

Marathon’s Steven Schluter has a new career because of the storm. After losing two family cars and his house to Irma, he now has two new electric vehicles and is a driver for Uber and Lyft, which are mobile-device-based, on-call ride services that have made traveling or living without a vehicle easier.

“Technology has come so far,” Schluter said. “It’s so convenient now to use a car service and to be cost-effective [with transportation].”

Prior to Irma, he traded equities for a living, but it was hard trading against “machines,” he said. Schluter explored his options and a visit to central Florida cemented his current occupation.

While staffing a booth at Sun ‘N’ Fun in April in Lakeland, he talked with thousands of people and every third customer asked if Marathon had Uber or Lyft, he said.

Soon, he was an Uber and Lyft driver in Marathon. He works seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and it’s a rare day that he doesn’t have anyone booking a ride. Recently, he drove a passenger to Fort Lauderdale, who paid $290.

“He had to go right now and it worked for him,” Schluter said.

As the driver, it works for Schluter, too.

“I like the longer rides, it’s cost effective,” he said.

Schluter researched vehicles and ordered a Tesla Model 3 in May because charging the vehicle costs one-third what gas would cost, he said, and it came with a $7,500 federal rebate. A cost comparison showed he will save $20,000 in fuel costs driving this electrical vehicle with a 310-mile range. Ironically, Schluter used to own a gas station.

The businessman praised the Tesla buying process, saying there are no hidden fees, and after checking a few boxes, he had ordered his vehicle in 15 minutes. The Tesla arrived much sooner than expected, so he picked it up in July. For a month prior, he drove a Chevrolet Volt, an electric vehicle with a 230-mile range.

“The Tesla is more comfortable for longer trips,” he said.

In addition to convenience, clients tend to like the service because they can rate the ride, Schluter said. They have a say in the service, and they can track his location on their mobile phones. For the Fort Lauderdale passenger, the driver arrived for pick-up within a minute-and-a-half.

Schluter recently joined the Marathon Chamber of Commerce because he always has participated in it.

“It goes out of its way to help members, and I wanted to create awareness,” he said.