Ridesharing Companies Could Play a Role in Expanding Transit to Underserved, Low-Income Commuters Under New Center for American Progress Proposal

A driver for the ridesharing service Lyft uses Lyft's smartphone app.

A driver for the ridesharing service Lyft uses Lyft’s smartphone app to see where other drivers working at the same time are located so she can plan the best place to wait for customers, March 2014.  Source: AP/Ted S. Warren

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–April 28, 2016.  Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft could play a role in expanding transit access for underserved, low-income commuters, a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress proposes. The brief, released today, suggests utilizing ridesharing services to overcome the last-mile barriers to connect low-income people to a city’s public transit system. It also outlines a new proposal that calls for Congress to authorize a pilot program to allow a limited number of public transit agencies with a rail system to flex a portion of their federal funding to pay a portion of the cost of ridesharing trips that connect qualified low-income residents with the rail system.

“Rapid adoption of mobile phones with sophisticated ridesharing applications offers transit providers the opportunity to administer targeted subsidies in a cost-effective manner that would have been infeasible even a few years ago,” said Kevin DeGood, Director of Infrastructure Policy at CAP. “Such a program would help transit agencies fulfill their mission to provide quality service that offers social, economic, and environmental benefits.”

Metropolitan regions that have substantial transit service still manage to bypass a large share of the population, which means that residents who live beyond the reach of transit face higher overall transportation costs because driving is the only remaining option to reach employment and other daily needs. While geographic coverage, frequency, and hours of service of transit providers are all critical metrics when it comes to measuring the service quality of a transit system, these core characteristics tend to overlook the individuals and households who live beyond a reasonable walking distance to the transit system.

CAP’s brief lays out a proposal to allow transit agencies to use a portion of their federal formula funding to pay a portion of ridesharing services for qualified low-income individuals and families, particularly those individuals who live within the intended service area but beyond a reasonable walking distance to a bus or rail stop. The brief suggests specifics for how policymakers and transit systems might design such a program: how to determine the boundaries of the geographic areas whose residents might qualify for subsidized trips; how to determine who is eligible, given budgetary constraints; and how to set subsidy levels and the total number of trips eligible for subsidy each month.

The brief argues that Congress should establish a pilot program to allow transit agencies to try different approaches to leveraging mobile technology and ridesharing providers. It uses Atlanta as a test case, mapping out how such a system might work in conjunction with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

Click here to read “Can New Transportation Technologies Improve Equity and Access to Opportunity?” by Kevin DeGood and Andrew Schwartz.

Source: http://www.americanprogress.org