Uber is looking to partner with more local transit agencies to fill in access gaps in the system and provide more options for people with disabilities.
Paige Tsai, who is on the company’s public policy and communications team, encouraged transit agencies to reach out to Uber when she spoke at the Washington Auto Show on Jan. 26.
“As you know, city transit systems provide very important mobility options, but they aren’t able to reach everyone,” Tsai said at a panel hosted by the Eno Center for Transportation. “We don’t have plans on replacing high-capacity mass transit. I don’t think that’s what we’re focused on right now. We’re really focused on filling the gaps in those transit systems on the outskirts of the city.”
Uber, which is headquartered in San Francisco, already has partnered with several transit agencies. It inked a deal with Summit, N.J., last year to pilot a program where it would subsidize commuters’ rides in lieu of the city spending millions of dollars to construct new parking facilities.
Uber also is piloting a program with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority that would provide on-demand paratransit services for people with disabilities, according to Tsai. She said that by offering paratransit services, Uber could decrease costs for transit agencies, though she noted that it has been challenging finding drivers with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Potential partnerships between private companies, like Uber, and public transportation agencies have drawn more attention in recent weeks as President Donald Trump has discussed plans to unveil a $1 trillion infrastructure package that could largely rely on public-private partnerships.
But when asked what role the government should play in the kind of partnerships Uber was developing, Tsai said it was too early to say.
“I think this is still very new,” she said. “We’re still just forming the types of partnerships and pilots that we can have. So I’d be reluctant to encourage any type of, you know, regulation federally at this point just because there is still much to learn.”
Tsai said there should be adequate opportunity given for companies and agencies to see which kinds of partnerships and best practices “rise to the top.”
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