Uber and public transit

FT journalist Leslie Hook describes a new deal for Uber in Summit, New Jersey, a commuter community just 45-minutes from mid-town Manhattan. The town of Summit contracted Uber to provide residents free rides to and from its train station. This is the first deal of this kind for Uber, but similar deals may be coming.

The Summit deal focuses on what is known as the “last mile” problem of getting commuters to and from rail stations, which researchers consider to be an ideal use case for ride-sharing. ….

Facing budget pressures, US cities are increasingly experimenting to see whether hiring Uber, or its smaller rival Lyft, can be a cheaper alternative to building parking garages or adding bus routes. Personal car ownership is the primary mode of transportation in the US, where only 2 per cent of trips take place on public transportation, a level far lower than other developed nations. (Emphasis added.)

Last month, Boston announced a test programme that subsidises Uber and Lyft rides for disabled passengers, a faster option compared with the city’s door-to-door van service. Earlier this year, a county in Florida started providing free Uber rides at night for low-income passengers — a cheaper alternative to a night bus.

Leslie Hook, “Uber meshes with US public transit in small-town drive“, Financial Times, 6 October 2016 (metered paywall).

Ms Hook is the FT’s San Francisco correspondent. If her 2% statistic for use of mass transportation is correct, this is shameful. It would be nice to see the statistics for large, urban areas such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. Use of public transportation is no doubt higher in large cities.

Years ago, when living in Mexico City, I recall reading that automobiles (presumably including taxis) transported only 13% of the commuters, leaving public transportation (underground rail and buses) to transport the remaining 87%. Even so, traffic jams during rush hours were frequent and often horrific. Needless to say, so was the smog.

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