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 portions of 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.[1]

Target Markets[2]

The following are some of the target markets for ridehail-transit partnerships:

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

Approach to Transit-Ridehail Partnerships[2]

  1. Motivation: Find ways to save money, increase ridership, or demonstrate innovation. Focus on core transit service and quality improvements.
  2. Engage: Commence informal talks or issue an RFP. Collaboration enables headway on data sharing, solutions for WAV, cash pay, and non-smartphone customers.
  3. Negotiate: Focus on data sharing, ADA, and Title VI
  4. Operate
  5. Terminate: Transit agencies should experiment and terminate the engagement if goals can't be met.

What makes a good pilot?

To this point, many ridehailing partnerships are pilot programs that transit agencies have conducted. Here are some elements and steps to consider in creating a transit-ridehail partnership pilot:

  • Function: What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • Market: What areas are hurting for attention?
  • Mode: What mode best suits the capacity needs? A ridehail partnership allows a transit agency to use smaller vehicles without needing to add those vehicles to its fleet.
  • Market
  • Evaluate: Iterate and critique. Some agencies have used third-party consultants to perform this.
  • Decide: Reinvent, scale, or terminate.

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's Blue@Night program logo.[3]

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 argues that TNCs should be used as extensions to transit service, not as replacements.[4]

Another form of route replacement is suburban mobility. One example is Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority's (LAVTA) partnerships with Lyft, Uber, and DeSoto Cab Company (for ADA and Title VI). This partnership applied to shared rides only. This partnership included incentives for WAV trip availability and responsiveness. Unlike in San Clemente, fixed route ridership actually increased, which can be possibly explained by the partnership's ability to connect customers to existing rail services like BART.[3]

Payment Partnerships

Uber in Denver

Paratransit Partnerships

Boston Paratransit contract: In an effort to test cost-effective ways to provide for demand responsive paratransit the MBTA partnered up with Uber, Lyft and Curb to offer subsidized ride hailing for its paratransit (The Ride) customers.[5]

A smaller paratransit partnership is Greater Richmond Transit Company's (GRTC) agreement with two "hybrid TNCs" for same-day service for ADA paratransit riders. GRTC issued an RFP with a deliberate focus on ADA and Titile VI services. The partnership requires a 2-hour advance notice and can be reserved up to 30-days in advance. Drivers receive ADA and sensitivity training and provide door-to-door service when needed. The agency and companies also have agreed to extensive data sharing.[2]

In San Bernardino, OmniTrans subsidizes Lyft trips by providing seniors and people with disabilities a monthly subsidy of $40 per participant for $80 worth of Lyft service. To provide vehicles with wheelchair-accessible service and trip requests by phone, OmniTrans also partners with a local taxi company. Despite this additional partnership, OmniTrans has seen very little customer utilization of the taxi option.

Programs that Indirectly Promote Transit

Lyft Complete Streets

Marketing partnerships . co-promotion agreement

Informal (no exchange of funds)


  1. Joseph Schweiterman and Mallory Livingston. "A Review of Partnerships between Transportation Network Companies and Public Agencies in the United States." TRB, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 TRB Webinar. "Partnerships Between Transit Agencies and Transportation Network Companies." 17 July 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 TRB Webinar. "Partnerships Between Transit Agencies and Transportation Network Companies." 17 July 2019.
  4. Bruce Schaller. "The New Mobility: Lyft, Uber, and the Future of American Cities."
  5. On Demand Pilot, The MBTA,