Public transit on demand…excerpt, Houston Chronicle, Nov 2017 Why the ‘Uberization’ of public transit is good for cities by Junfeng Jiao, Juan Miró, Nicole McGrath, University of Texas at Austin, 3 November 2017
In fact, public transit “Uberization” has already begun. Many U.S. cities are teaming up with ride-hailing companies to provide on-demand public transit, as well as so-called first- and last-mile connections to transit services. These offerings appeal to riders’ desire for individual flexibility. By connecting ride-hailing apps with public buses and rail, cities can help residents seamlessly move from one form of transportation to another.
Among many examples, in mid-2017 Capital Metro, the regional public transit agency for Austin, Texas, piloted the Pickup app, which allows customers to request rides to anywhere within its service zone in a section of northeast Austin from their phones. In Central Florida, five cities have launched a unique pilot program that offers discounted intercity Uber trips. And the city of Centennial, Colorado, recently partnered with Lyft to provide transit users free trips to and from their Dry Creek light rail station.
Another option is offering fixed-route, on-demand bus service, like Ford’s Chariot, which is currently available in New York City, Austin, Seattle and San Francisco. This approach, which is a cross between a ride-hailing app and a bus route, provides more flexibility than traditional public transit while keeping costs low. Chariot operates during commuter hours, guarantees riders a seat once they reserve a ride online and accepts employer-paid commuter benefits. Not to be left behind, Lyft and Uber are also trying to fill this hybrid bus/on-demand type service with Lyft Shuttle and UberPool.
Photo: David J. Phillip, Associated Press
This idea is not as new as it may seem. For years Americans have relied on a dependable on-demand, door-to-door public transportation system: the yellow school bus. According to the American School Bus Council, every school day in 2015 nearly 484,000 school buses transported 27 million children to and from school and school-related activities.
However, most school buses are used only twice a day, in the early morning and again in the afternoon. Local governments, transit agencies and private enterprises should consider partnering with school systems to turn school buses into on-demand transit services during idle hours.
We can also look to other countries for innovative ideas, such as colectivos – buses in South America that operate as shared taxis running on fixed routes. Via, a new ride-hailing vanpool service operating in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., was inspired by “sherut” shared taxis in Israel. Other forms of informal transit, such as Thailand’s tuk-tuks or jeepneys in the Philippines, may also inspire ways of filling transit gaps here in the United States. The beauty of Uberizing transportation services is that it can take many different forms.
Importantly, Uberization is not a replacement for traditional public transit. While there is some indication that ride-hailing apps reduce transit ridership, shared mobility services actually complement public transit.
Ride-hailing apps are usually used for social trips, and are most popular late at night, when traditional public transit is less frequent. Also, ride-sharing services reduce car ownership and decrease traffic congestion. And research shows that people who use ride-sharing services tend to use public transit more often.
As U.S. cities continue to grow, their leaders will need to think creatively to reduce traffic congestion and ensure that all residents’ mobility needs are met. They can learn from Uber and Lyft about providing more flexible and responsive public transit services.
Junfeng Jiao is Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning and Director, Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas at Austin,Juan Miró is the David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Urban Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and Nicole McGrath is an M.S. Candidate, Community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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