June 16, 2021
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Ridesharing firm Uber recently issued a 52-page whitepaper detailing the opportunities and challenges facing the public transportation sector, especially as transit agencies seek to recover ridership reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Above photo by Uber.]

“Globally, more people rely on public transportation than they do on personal vehicles,” Uber noted in its paper. “Efficient public transportation enables cities and towns to flourish by providing mobility for essential workers, older adults, people with disabilities, those who forgo car ownership by choice or by circumstance, and is the only available option by which millions of people access economic opportunities.”

Photo by Uber

However, the company noted that the COVID-19 crisis both decimated transit ridership and dried up funding resources – and recovery from that fallout from the pandemic has been slow.

“Against this backdrop, the need for public transportation agencies to evolve and innovate on their service delivery model has never been higher,” Uber said.

As a result, transit agencies must re-evaluate, contract, integrate, and then manage the right portfolio of products and partnerships – both physical and digital – to build the “right system solution” for the specific transportation needs of their riders. At the same time, network planning should take into account the new modes and technologies that agencies have at their disposal, Uber argued.

“At the highest level, we see public transportation systems transforming from decentralized networks, where different modes can often operate in silos, toward a system that is truly integrated, connected, and optimized in a highly agile way,” Uber said.

Photo by Uber

Furthermore, the number of modes that form the fabric of public transportation will continue to increase, the firm argued. “The mainstays of bus and rail will remain at the core of public transportation, moving large numbers of people along dense urban corridors,” Uber said in its paper.

“[But those] modes will be complemented by the addition of micro-transit, ridesharing, and micro-mobility modes which will gain an increasing share of the public transportation supply mix,” it added.

“The addition of new modes with a variable cost structure like ridesharing and the proliferation of on-demand services will unlock new optimums of efficiency and lower cost structures for public transportation agencies,” Uber said. “This transformation will also offer agencies more opportunities to improve the equity, accessibility, resilience, and flexibility of their networks.”

editor@aashto.org

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