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City governments must be able to manage all aspects of their transportation portfolio. Vehicles for hire, including taxis and ridesharing, are an important part of that portfolio. Austin voters recently mandated safety from TNC providers by requiring fingerprinting of rideshare app drivers. As a result of Uber and Lyft’s refusal to provide safe driver vetting, thousands of Austin’s citizens were left without transportation. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the downside of leaving third party companies in control of a vital component of city transit. These private companies make choices by putting profits first and safety second. No city in America should have their transportation needs held hostage by a private company. Cities should invest in their own digital transportation infrastructure.

RideLeads provides cities with a packaged mobility and connected traveler platform that offers citizens access to drivers who undergo FBI background checks with fingerprinting, guaranteeing them a safe ride that meets all government regulations.


Uber and Lyft Are Officially Dead in Austin
By Stef Schrader, Jalopnik
May 9, 2016

I hope you’re not stuck somewhere in Austin where you’re unable to drive yourself today. Uber and Lyft are officially dead within Austin’s city limits as of this morning due to an ongoing temper tantrum they’re throwing over increased regulation.

Here’s what you see when you open the two apps within Austin’s city limits:

(Uber App Screenshot: “Uber not currently available in Austin. Due to regulations passed by City Council, Uber is no longer available within city limits. We hope to resume operations under modern ridesharing regulations in the near future. / Contact City Council.” | Lyft App Screenshot: “Lyft is not currently available. Due to City Council action, Lyft cannot operate in Austin. Contact your City Council member now to tell them you want Lyft back. / Let them know.”)

Our cabbie-backed city council didn’t help matters by pushing the ongoing debate over appropriate regulations for ride-hailing apps to an impasse. However, Uber and Lyft aren’t winning many friends in sticking to their plans to pull out, either—or the way their election tactics made everyone in the city miserable.

Lyft has already softened its language to “Pausing Operations in Austin, For Now” in an email sent to users, signifying that they’re willing to come back if they’re able to work out more favorable regulations in the future.

While Uber has stopped its ride-hailing services, Uber’s Favor/Postmates food-fetching competitor UberEATS will be sticking around, per the Austin American-Statesman.

Both ride-hailing apps are still operating in the suburbs around the Austin city limits, however, you cannot hail a car to even leave the city from within those limits.

Suspending operations within Austin cuts out a vital source of income for many locals who have used ride-hailing services as a means to make ends meet in a city that has become exponentially more expensive to live in over the past few years.

Furthermore, the services flourished here because there were inadequate options for getting around without your own car. There are several start-ups such as GetMe trying to compete in the same space that have not pulled service from Austin, but they’re not as developed as departing giants Uber and Lyft. In the meantime, it’s back to the buddy system if you need a ride to pick up your busted car from the shop, or making sure to have a designated driver if you’re going hard on Dirty Sixth.

If ride-hailing apps and Austin City Council can’t work together, then it’s past time to fix the issues that caused us to rely so heavily on the presence of services like Uber and Lyft in the first place. Like many growing cities, we desperately need to take a hard look at public transit and affordability for Austin’s most vulnerable citizens—and everyone else, really.”

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Given the high cost of providing paratransit services for the disabled, some cities are turning to money-saving partnerships with TNCs like Uber and Lyft to fill the gap. Although this decision may be well-intended, cities must remember that Uber and Lyft consider themselves technology companies, rather than transportation services. They routinely argue in court that they are exempt from the ADA requirement of providing accessible vehicles. As a result, disabled citizens find themselves stranded. If TNCs are neither interested in, nor qualified to, provide the essential service they are being paid to offer, why are cities still contracting them out? It is clear that cities need their own means of offering adequate paratransit, and should be aware that there are more effective options for providing these critical services.

RideLeads provides cities with a packaged mobility and connected traveler platform that is built specifically to include a wheelchair accessible vehicle option, connecting disabled riders to convenient transportation options and helping cities ensure that they provide legally required services to every citizen.


Transit systems eye Uber, Lyft for savings on the disabled
By the Associated Press
April 12, 2016

BOSTON — Several U.S. transit systems looking to defray costs of providing services for the disabled are weighing partnerships with Uber and Lyft, unsettling some advocates who note that ride-hailing services have themselves faced criticism over accessibility.

Paratransit, better known under names like “The Ride,” ”Access-a-Ride,” or “Dial-a-Ride,” is required under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. But the costs, which include door-to-door pickup and drop-off, can be steep.

The average cost of operating a single paratransit trip is about $23 in the U.S., compared with less than $4 for the average trip on bus or light rail. In Boston, the average cost per ride is about $45, in Washington, about $50, and in New York, nearly $57, officials said.

Transit agencies nationwide logged about 223 million paratransit trips at a cost exceeding $5.1 billion — about 12 percent of total transit operating costs — in 2013, according to the most recent data from the American Public Transportation Association. The price tag is particularly high in major cities, where agencies struggle with regular service and maintenance.

“I understand there are budget concerns. But for me this is a quality-of-life issue,” said Sarah Kaplan, 32, who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She rides a vehicle operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to get to and from her job as internship coordinator with the Boston Center for Independent Living.

“I want the right to leave my house like everyone else,” Kaplan said.

In 2012, the MBTA doubled fares from $2 to $4 for The Ride, triggering protests; several people chained their wheelchairs together and blocked traffic. Fares were later rolled back to $3 for most rides.

The deficit-ridden agency now hopes to cut $10 million in annual paratransit costs by expanding an existing taxi voucher system and contracting with ride-hailing services.

The plan, not yet finalized, would charge customers $2 per ride, while the MBTA contributes up to $13 for the trip. If a trip costs more than $15, the passenger would pay the difference.

A potential incentive for riders: Uber or Lyft can be summoned immediately with an app; trips on MBTA vehicles must be scheduled a day ahead.

“My guess is it will be very appealing to people who need to go shorter distances where the fares are under $15 and they can get an on-demand ride as opposed to booking 24 hours in advance,” said Brian Shortsleeve, the agency’s chief administrator.

But convenience comes with a catch.

With a limited number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, the ride-hailing services would be available largely to people who can walk. And while a majority of individuals certified to use paratransit fit that bill, advocates worry about creating an unfair and possibly even illegal two-tiered system for the disabled — one serving people who can walk, the other those whose needs the private vehicles can’t accommodate.

“We don’t want racial segregation, and we also don’t want disability segregation,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the California-based Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

Uber and Lyft have both cited efforts to improve offerings for disabled riders. But the services have argued they are technology, not transportation, companies, meaning they are not required to provide accessible vehicles. Advocates for the disabled have filed a handful of lawsuits.

In January, a coalition including disability rights groups and labor unions wrote to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, known as Metro, expressing alarm over the agency’s interest in contracting with companies such as Uber or Lyft.

“This is of grave concern to our coalition for many reasons, most importantly because neither company has adequate access to wheelchair accessible vehicles,” the letter stated. Passenger safety and inadequate driver training were also cited as concerns, though activists did applaud Metro for seeking alternative forms of transportation.

The system already supplements its MetroAccess service with alternatives such as Transport DC, which offers $5 taxi rides to the disabled, including wheelchair-accessible cabs.

Metro hopes to solicit formal proposals from ride-sharing companies this summer but will pay careful attention to how such a program is structured, said Christian Kent, assistant manager of access services.

Pace, which operates the Chicago-area paratransit system, has had preliminary meetings with Uber and Lyft, said agency spokesman Doug Sullivan. He cited as a potential barrier the strict federal guidelines that drivers for Pace — or any company under contract with Pace — must meet for training, and drug and alcohol testing.

A spokesman for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest transit system, declined to say whether it had reached out to ride-hailing services but did say no agreements were in place.

The San Francisco Examiner reported last year that Uber was in talks to take over that city’s paratransit system, something that didn’t come to pass.

Uber did not provide details of current paratransit proposals, but the company has pointed to disability outreach efforts such as UberACCESS that connects riders with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

In a statement, Lyft said it has been in discussions with transit officials in Boston and was monitoring developments in Washington with the hope of participating in paratransit programs in both cities. The company also said it was working to accommodate people with disabilities, citing a recent partnership with the National Federation of the Blind.


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Chicago’s efforts to provide a universal e-hail taxi app should be applauded; however, the article below points out a major problem with the city’s solution. Rather than developing its own single, universal app, Chicago is instructing riders and drivers to use one of two existing third party apps. By promoting dual apps, the city’s pool of available taxis is halved (divided amongst the two apps), meaning riders won’t be able to access the nearest taxi, rather only those using that particular app, and drivers will have access to half the rider pool. Splitting up the city’s taxis on two “competing technologies” fails to achieve the goals of a single, universal app, which would enable access to the nearest and most convenient taxi, and will not deliver the benefits this type of solution is intended to offer.

RideLeads offers a packaged mobility and connected traveler platform to cities so that they can offer a true universal e-hail app. This solution creates one pool of all available taxis (and other vehicles) and means faster pickup times for riders and more access to riders for drivers.

Cabbies Honked Off About City Choosing 2 ‘Universal’ Taxi Apps
By Ted Cox, DNAinfo
January 12, 2016


CITY HALL — Cabbies are raising objections over the city’s selection of two “universal” taxi ride-hailing apps.

David Kreisman, spokesman for Cab Drivers United, said Thursday the union local is “disappointed that instead of deciding on a ‘universal’ app that would allow passengers to hail any cab as promised, the city has endorsed dual, competing technologies.”

City officials announced Wednesday that after a six-month search for a taxi app allowing cabbies to compete with upstart firms like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, it had selected Arro and Verifone’s Curb as the authorized services. The city’s 12,700 cabbies will have to connect with one or the other by Feb. 1.

“By endorsing dual apps, the city is creating unnecessary barriers between passengers and the professional transportation service cab drivers provide,” Kreisman added.

And while both Verifone and Arro submitted initial statements saying they were thrilled to be selected, they aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the competition either.

“Yes, of course we would have preferred to be the universal taxi app!” Verifone spokesman Jason Gross said. “Ultimately, it will be up to the taxi riders to decide what works best for them, and that may mean that the two apps will continue to provide Chicagoans with options for paying and hailing cabs.”

Verifone’s Curb claims to be in Chicago cars already, and it will merge with its Way2ride system to expand to other cities, while Arro has already established itself in New York City.

The good news for riders, though, is that both have agreed not to institute surge pricing, keeping taxi rates steady, while the upstart competitors let theirs fluctuate with momentary supply and demand.

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