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Ride-hailing is Becoming Public Transportation

When the Department of Transportation released a 30-year traffic report last year, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told BuzzFeed he thought public transportation would start “behaving more like Uber.”

A year and a half later, public transit agencies across the country are not just behaving like Uber — they’re subsidizing it outright for their residents. Altamonte Springs, Florida, 10 miles north of Orlando, subsidizes 20% of the cost of every Uber ride within its borders, and bumps that discount up to 25% if the rider is going to or from the local light rail. Centennial, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, began offering residents free Lyft rides to the light rail station this summer. Foxx told BuzzFeed it wouldn’t be surprising if more agencies followed the trend — and eventually, the majority of public transportation could become a string of private services.

“As a former mayor, I can say it with confidence: It’s all part of trying to figure out how to do more with less,” Foxx said. “A transit agency is going to say, ‘Look, the cost of acquiring 50 new buses to connect that last mile is going to be more expensive for us than plugging in our operating budget some additional money to connect to a ride-sharing service.’”

Some critics have raised concerns that turning over public transportation to private companies could leave out the people who need public transportation most: lower-income people who might not have smartphones, or who live in areas that are less lucrative for drivers, given that Uber and Lyft employees are private contractors and earn their wages based on each drive. But Foxx said cities could mitigate some of these criticisms; for example, some cities have suggested placing kiosks on the streets to allow people to call for rides. – BuzzFeed

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