Engage labor early and address accessibility issues at the outset when considering partnering with new mobility services.
Experiences of two transit operators in entering service delivery partnerships with a Transportation Network Company (TNC) and with a micro-transit operator.
Made Public Date
03/01/2018

1097

Pinellas County
Florida
United States

874

Kansas City
Missouri
United States
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Identifier
2018-00806

Partnerships with Technology Enabled Mobility Companies: Lessons Learned

Background

Transit Authority (PSTA), serving the St. Petersburg region of Pinellas County in Florida, was the first transit operator in the country to execute a service delivery partnership with a transportation network company (TNC). In February 2016, PSTA announced that it was partnering with Uber, United Taxi, and Care Ride, a van option for individuals with disabilities to provide an innovative solution to the region’s first mile and last mile access to the rapid transit network. The pilot demonstration was deployed in an under-served area. As of November 2016, PTSA expanded the Direct Connect service to its entire service area.

In March 2016, KCATA launched a demand-responsive micro-transit service with Bridj called Ride KC: Bridj. Bridj operates a small fleet of passenger vans where people reserve rides with a mobile app. The Bridj algorithm calculates routes to pick up and drop off passengers in the most efficient manner. The new service was fully operated by KCATA employees and union members. The yearlong pilot was paid for with local funds. (The pilot ended in March 2017 having served fewer than 1,500 people.)

Lessons Learned

This report details the experiences of two transit operators who have entered into service delivery partnerships with a TNC and with a micro-transit operator. The report provides the following key takeaways for transit operators exploring the potential of partnering with TNCs (i.e. Uber or Lyft) and micro-transit (i.e. Bridj or Via).

  • Consider defining best practices and rules of engagement for the transit industry. TNCs and micro-transit options are new to the market and the concept of partnerships has just recently emerged. As a result, the transit industry has not yet defined best practices and standards for entering into such relationships. Without common industry guidelines, engagements between TNCs and transit agencies can be inconsistent, even within the same region. Lack of consistency can breed confusion and frustration for both the agency and the private sector partner, and can even lead to the dissolution of potential partnerships.
  • Look for guidance in interpreting regulations. The regulations are inconsistently interpreted at the transit operator level, in part due to an outdated regulatory framework. A lack of a framework or guidance for applying laws, regulations, and guidance designed for fixed route bus and rail modes to emerging on-demand modes such as TNCs and micro-transit has led to de-facto interpretation and decision making on a localized and case-by-case basis. Interviews with various transit agencies engaging with TNCs, including PSTA and KCATA, revealed that each had a different interpretation of how to apply Title VI, Environmental Justice (EJ), ADA, and drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations in their partnerships with TNCs. Without clear guidance it is extremely challenging to enter into legal partnerships with TNCs or other technology enabled transportation companies.
  • Engage labor early. The experience in Kansas City highlighted the need to engage labor early when considering partnering with new mobility services. Kansas’ experience provides precedent for how to develop mutually beneficial labor contracts for Bridj service delivery. However, partnerships will likely be slightly different in each region introducing micro-transit, and therefore transit operators should include additional negotiation time within their deployment timeline. In the case of PSTA, when partnering with Uber they were unable to engage organized labor to provide those services. This is a function of the TNC business model, where Uber serves as a technology platform rather than an employer.
  • Address the need for accessibility at the onset. Currently, there is no clear method for ensuring the availability of vehicles capable of transporting individuals in wheelchairs on a TNC or micro-transit platform. Both transit operators and TNCs have noted that ensuring wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are available on the platform is challenging. Uber and Lyft are currently working on providing WAVs on their platform, but this service is not yet robust and is not necessarily in compliance with ADA requirements. This is also a challenge that the micro-transit industry faces. Within the Kansas City/Bridj partnership, the Bridj fleet includes two vehicles capable of transporting individuals in wheelchairs.

Partnerships with Technology Enabled Mobility Companies: Lessons Learned

Partnerships with Technology Enabled Mobility Companies: Lessons Learned
Publication Sort Date
01/01/2017
Author
Westervelt, Marla; Joshua Schank; and Emma Huang
Publisher
Transportation Research Board

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