Larger cities offering TNC trips to improve transit options

By Chet Edelman

As transit ridership continues to fall in urban areas nationwide, several cities are turning to an unlikely ally to make transit service more appealing and convenient: TNCs. In cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Denver, transportation agencies are partnering with Lyft, Uber, and other TNCs to offer residents free or discounted service to and from transit stops. Although in the past smaller cities with less robust transit have used TNCs to fill in the gaps, larger cities are now jumping on board.

In Dallas, for example, transit riders will be offered two free UberPool rides per day from select transit stops. The goal is to provide transit riders with an additional option to commute to and from higher-frequency transit stops without needing to rely on single occupancy vehicles.

These new service arrangements are coming at a time when TNCs are facing increased scrutiny over their role in reducing transit ridership. Several recent studies have indicated that the proliferation of TNC in cities has cut into transit’s customer base while simultaneously contributing to increased vehicle congestion.

However, by using TNCs and flexible pick-up transit options to fill in areas where transit lines don’t run or when service is spotty, transit agencies are seeking to work with TNCs rather than compete directly against them. More specifically, TNCs are being used to ameliorate the first and last mile issue that dissuades people from becoming regular transit riders. While several of these programs are in their infancy, their success could help spur additional TNC-transit partnerships in other large metro areas going forward.

Chet Edelman is a Project Assistant at SSTI.