Tips for Transit in the Age of Uber

Hate it or love it, Uber has changed the transportation game across this country. To boost ridership and change its public image, transit should consider taking some cues from the rideshare giant.

June 22, 2016, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

Uber isn't universally beloved by any means, but its Silicon Valley disdain for the way things are done has brought it massive success, especially in cities where it supplements and competes with public transit. This piece gives us three ways transit can learn from Uber. Accompanying GIFs of current and former presidential candidates Clinton, Bush, and Rubio may make all of this more palatable. 

Here are the three lessons:

  • Transition to app-driven payment. "When you get in an Uber, you don't pay fare like you do on a bus. You just start moving. When you reach your destination, you don't fumble for cash and wait for change like you do in a taxi. You just get out." This creates a "magical feeling" transit would do well to replicate in the iPhone age. 
  • It's easier for a digital startup to tweak frequencies, but that doesn't make this aspect of customer service any less essential. "With much fanfare, Austin introduced bus services that come every 15 minutes at peak times and every 20 minutes off-peak. For Uber, by contrast, a passenger waiting 15 minutes for service is considered a failure."
  • Horror stories aside, Uber places a priority on driver courtesy and quality of service. The author recommends that "transit agencies could incorporate a method for customers who pay by app to rate their rides and use information to grade and improve drivers. This would require a massive–but necessary–change in how agencies relate to their drivers and customers."

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