Transportation Network Companies Increase Mobility for Underserved Communities

A recent op-ed posted here warned against new transportation technologies and instead encouraged cities to invest in public transit and walkable communities. However, transportation network companies claim to have increased transportation equity.

August 12, 2016, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Lincoln Limos

Jason Lawrence / Flickr

Kevin Cashman, a Truthout researcher, recently asked if lower income people will not only be left out from the transportation technology revolution, e.g., electric and autonomous vehicles and car-hailing, but will they also be hurt by it?

A case was made before the National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference last week in Washington that transportation networking companies, e.g., Uber and Lyft, are greatly improving mobility options for disadvantaged communities.

While presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have captured most of the headlines at the conference, other prominent guests were featured as well.

David Plouffe, a former Obama administration senior adviser and now a chief adviser and board member for Uber, addressed journalists August 4 for a 'Fireside Chat', "Serving the Underserved." 

"Perhaps nowhere has ridesharing's impact been felt more than in the nation's underserved neighborhoods, where work and transportation options have historically been scarce," states the session's description.

"Plouffe’s said his move to Uber clued him into the disparities in transportation options [transportation equity] facing minority and low-income neighborhoods," reports Gabrielle Gurley for The American Prospect. 

“I admit I didn’t realize as much when I was in government—I am ashamed by that—until I got into the private sector,” he said. “Why should it be that if you live in one part of the city it takes you 30 minutes to get a ride, and if you live in a wealthier area it takes three minutes?'

"The ride-sharing service brought new mobility options to people in transportation deserts like Crenshaw in Los Angeles, Anacostia in D.C., and the South Side of Chicago," adds Gurley. "For a person of color, Uber’s appeal is simple: If you tap it, they will come."

Uber and its competitor Lyft have emerged as essential alternatives to taxi services that often discriminate, especially against African Americans, by refusing to stop when hailed or by declining to travel to certain neighborhoods for pick-ups and drop-offs.

Take the largely African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Washington, D.C. It has seen a 700 percent growth in Uber rides year over year, reports Gurley.

Courtesy of

Gurley goes on to write about other aspects of ride-hailing and serving disadvantaged and underserved communities, noting that "the service has a very uneven record of serving people with disabilities." And as Cashman wrote earlier, "owning a smartphone—not an insignificant investment—is a necessity."

Friday, August 5, 2016 in The American Prospect

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Puente Hills Landfill as seen from the air

More Funds to Transform the Puente Hills Landfill into a Regional Park

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just approved an additional $28 million to support the development of the Puente Hills Regional Park at the landfill site.

May 23 - Supervisor Hilda Solis

Denver, Colorado

Denver Freeway Widening Plans on Hold

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plan to widen the Interstate 25 freeway through Denver is one of a few plans to widen urban freeways under consideration in the United States.

May 23 - The Colorado Sun

Fringe Development

Public Perceptions of Sprawl and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Urban density has a bad reputation.

May 23 - Greater Greater Washington

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

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.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.