Ridesharing

Uber Inks First Deal To Manage Public Transit

With ridesharing having taken a hit from the pandemic, Uber is pushing into a new sector: public transportation.

Uber — or Uber’s software, to be exact — will soon be managing public transportation for Marin County in the San Francisco Bay area, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

Uber has inked a deal with county officials under which residents of Marin, population 250,000, will be able to use Uber’s app to book rides on minibuses in Marin.

Marin Transit will charge riders $4 a mile, with a dollar discount on each mile for the disabled or those with mobility issues. Uber, in turn, will earn a flat fee for managing the service, with a cap of $80,000.

While it’s a modest amount for a multibillion-dollar company, Uber sees growth potential in the public transportation sector, with the Marin County deal giving it an important foothold, FT reported.

David Reich, head of Transit at Uber, told FT the ridesharing giant is discussing similar deals with public transit agencies in “dozens” of regions on several continents.

“Agencies have been approaching us for years now, trying to figure out ways that they can tap into the technology we’ve built within Uber,” Uber’s Reich told the FT. “This is the first step towards us being able to provide that to them.”

The deal is a shift in strategy for Uber, which has gone to considerable lengths to avoid falling under local regulatory strictures, having entered a number of cities without first seeking approval from officials.

But with ridership on public transit down across the world in the wake of the pandemic, transit agencies may be looking for ways to lure riders back.

In the case of Marin County minibuses, ridership was lower than what officials would have liked, in part, at least, due to the requirement that riders download a separate, dedicated app, FT reported.

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