The Risk of Trusting Mobility Services to the Ubers of the World

The potential risks of privatizing mobility are scrutinized in a Canadian city that subsidizes Uber rides.

1 minute read

January 22, 2018, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock

"Since last May, more than 25,000 trips have been taken with Uber in a town near Toronto, Ontario called Innisfil," reports Tracey Lindeman. "That number, provided to Motherboard by the town, is particularly significant because Innisfil only had around 36,000 residents in 2016."

The town of Innisfil is one of a few in North America that subsidizes ride-hailing trips—in this case to substitute for public transit. Other cities in British Columbia, where ride-hailing companies are illegal, are hoping to follow Innisfil's lead in subsidizing Uber and Lyft rides.

As Lindeman notes, however, "[h]aving a private technology company step in to provide essential services normally offered—and paid for—by governments is a potentially worrisome trend." The main concern Lindeman expresses is a concern that riders would be trapped in a number of scenarios, like the company suddenly goes out of business or raises prices dramatically. 

Paul Pentikainen, Innisfil’s senior policy planner, is on the record in the article claiming that the service is cheaper for the city than paying for bus service, but Uber won't say whether the program is profitable for the company. That's not the only reason to approach the long-term sustainability of this program with skepticism. Lindeman rightly points out many of the possible ways programs like Innisfil's could go wrong for residents.

Monday, January 22, 2018 in Motherboard

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Diagram of visibility at urban intersection.

How ‘Daylighting’ Intersections Can Save Lives

Eliminating visual obstructions can make intersections safer for all users.

November 27, 2023 - Strong Towns

People walking on paved path in green city park with trees and tall city skyscrapers in background.

Green Spaces Benefit Neighborhoods—When Residents can Reach Them

A study comparing green space and walkability scores found that, without effective access to local parks, residents of greener neighborhoods don’t reap the health benefits.

December 3 - American Heart Association News

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3 - NBC 16

White, blue, and red Chicago transit bus at an urban bus station with shelter.

Chicago Announces ‘Better Streets for Buses’ Plan

The plan establishes a ‘toolkit’ of improvements to make the bus riding experience more reliable, comfortable, and accessible.

December 3 - City of Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.