Transit-Ridehail Partnerships

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Several public sector transit agencies have begun to partner with TNCs to either augment, assist, or even replace their existing service.

Pinellas County in Florida developed the first US partnership with a TNC, doing so in response to drastic service cuts the agency made due to low ridership. Instead of cutting service to some areas entirely, Pinellas Suncoast Transit began discounting Uber rides $5. Similar partnerships have begun to take shape across the country. While these have been mostly in smaller cities, Boston has begun using Lyft and Uber to provide conventional paratransit service, citing significant cost savings over handling the operation in-agency (Schwieterman, 2018).

Target Markets

  • Late night or special events
  • Suburban mobility
  • Paratransit / Dial-a-Ride
  • First/last mile
  • Guaranteed ride home

Approach to Transit-Ridehail Partnerships

  1. Motivation: Find ways to save money, increase ridership, or demonstrate innovation
  2. Engage: Commence informal talks or issue an RFP
  3. Negotiate: Focus on data sharing, ADA, and Title VI
  4. Operate

Policy Context

The FTA is actively updating its policies on how transit agencies work with ridehailing companies and other new mobility providers. Links to FAQs on website. Awaiting ruling on ridehail trips reporting to the NTD. Important for how funding is distributed back to agencies. As this grows, these trips are important to recognize.

Drug and alcohol testing. Transit operators must be tested. Taxicab exception. As long as a customer has a choice between two providers, the D&A testing is waived.

ADA requires agencies to provide equivalent service. Title VI responsibility to provide cash and phone options in context on ridehail partnerships. Important to FTA because of disproportionate share of low-income customers. (Link to low-income transit use.)

Sunshine laws.

Types of Partnerships

First-/Last-Mile Partnerships

Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is partnering with Lyft to offer a “Blue at Night” service, which discounts up to 20 shared rides at $3 each to and from Expo Line Stations on Friday and Saturday nights from 8:00 PM to 3:00 AM (Big Blue Bus, 2018).

Route Replacements

As substitutes, a shift from a city providing fixed-route, fixed-schedule bus service to on-demand subsidized TNCs can drastically reduce overall ridership. Bruce Schaller cites the situation in San Clemente, where the city contracted with Lyft to provide service on two recently-eliminated bus routes (2018). At last measure, daily bus ridership in those two corridors was 650 passengers. Lyft as a replacement, however, is averaging 70 daily riders, an 89-percent decrease. While this may ultimately be a net savings for the transit agency, it does represent a shift in mode or reduction in mobility for previous bus riders. Schaller aptly argues that TNCs should be used as extensions to transit service, not as replacements.

Payment Partnerships

Uber in Denver

Paratransit Partnerships

Boston Paratransit contract

Programs that Indirectly Promote Transit

Lyft Complete Streets

Marketing partnerships . co-promotion agreement

Informal (no exchange of funds)

Agency-subsidized trips