Public Rides and Ridesharing Mutually Beneficial, Mayor Says

Ridesharing and local public transit measures can go hand-in-hand, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said, underscoring the popularity of public transit and traffic ballot proposals.

In a year where transportation ballot measures are at historic highs, the advent of ridesharing solutions is something of a godsend to public transportation projects, Stanton said. The popularity of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft don’t have the mayor worried that voters will grow disinterested in public transit options, he said.

Uber is one of the largest ridesharing services on the market

“The ridesharing companies are probably a greater threat to traditional automobile companies than they are to transportation investments,” the mayor of America’s sixth most populous city said during a webinar on 2016 transportation ballot measures. “Ridesharing solves the last-mile-or-two issues that public transit deals with.”

“I would argue that working together, ridesharing companies and public transportation can leverage each other to great effect,” he said. 

Stanton, a Democrat reelected in 2015 in a traditionally red state, campaigned heavily on expanding Phoenix’s light-rail system, which was also on his reelection ballot ticket. The light-rail tax spending increase, Proposition 104, passed 55 percent, and Stanton won re-election with a crushing 65 percent of the vote. 

It’s cool to support urban lifestyles, Stanton said, adding that young people are drawn to cities that have a strong public transportation network that links them to cultural events and active lifestyles. Ridesharing helps round out an inherent disadvantage of public transit, he said adding that he’s not worried those younger voters will vote against transportation projects with the thought that the money could go toward ridesharing solutions instead. 

“Public transportation investments are particularly important to building that lifestyle that many young, college graduates want,” he said. Stanton championed public transportation ballot proposals as a good reason for people that are disillusioned by the top-of-the-ticket choices to come out and vote anyway.

This isn’t surprising considering data from the Center for Transportation Excellence (CTE) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) that show transportation-related tax increases (and the like) winning at the polls more than 70 percent of the time.

Santa Monica, Calif. unveiled an expansion to its light-rail transit system earlier this year.

More local lawmakers will likely seek to get transportation projects on ballots in the coming years, as federal funds languish, Jason Jordan, executive director of CTE said.

Indeed, 2016 is set to be a record year for public transit and traffic ballot measures, with 77 of such proposals appearing on ballots in races across the country, leaders for the transportation groups said during the webinar.

The transit and traffic proposals do well for a number of reasons, the three parties on the call said. 

People see the results of the projects directly in their daily life, Stanton said. Also, voters are becoming increasingly aware that the days of the federal government covering some 80-odd percent of a local transportation project is a thing of the past, Richard White, acting president and CEO of APTA said on the call.

$200 billion in transportation state and country funding proposals is on the line in the Nov. 8 elections.

“We need infrastructure investment from Washington, D.C., but if we wait for Washington to do it, we’ll be waiting a long time,” Stanton said.