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Uber as a Public Transit Option

How do you solve citizens need for public transport in a small community without using buses? This was the challenge for a small Canadian town (37 000 inhabitants) and the answer turned out to be Uber [1].

Innisfil, an exurb outside Ontario, was in the past a small rural village. During the last decade, the city has experienced rapid growth of citizens, citizens who also needed public transport to get around in the city. The problem was that the city was not big enough to afford a traditional public transport system with buses.

One solution the city tried to alleviate this problem was to partially subsidize ride-hailing trips. The citizens could choose to travel to community hubs for a flat fare ($3-5) or to get $5 off the regular price to other destinations in and around town. The investment proved to be a great success. In the first year (2017) Uber, reached 8 000 trips a month.

In fact, it turned out to be too successful for the city when an astounding 86 000 rides were done under the scheme during 2018. This year the city has thus changed its pricing policy. Now there is a limitation of 30 trips per month, the flat fare cost $4-6 and the subsidy is reduced to $4 per trip.


Personal comments

The upside with demand-based rides is that the city can provide door to door services without having to pay for buses or bus shelters. It is also a fast way to arrange public transport without having to plan bus routes, bus schedules etc. The city must only provide funding to subsidize fares. The downside is how can you make sure that the citizens get their ride in time. Will there be enough drivers during peak hour? This model also requires that citizens, for example, have a smartphone and a credit card.


Written by Kristina Andersson, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2019-04-29. Uber Was Supposed To Be Our Public Transit