The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) shouldn’t be afraid of ride-sharing services like Uber.
In fact, according to study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) earlier this month, they should embrace ride-sharing services that allow commuters more options during the hours public transportation is unavailable.
There’s been a lot of talk in Toronto about whether or not Uber is competing against public transportation agencies with the creation of services like UberHOP or UberPool. Last year, the TTC spoke with their lawyers about their monopoly on public transit in the city. They were concerned that UberHOP’s shuttling service was illegal under the City of Toronto Act, which says the only exemptions to this monopoly include rickshaws, pedicabs, taxicabs, vehicles used for providing sightseeing tours, and buses owned and operated by a corporation or organization solely for its own purposes, without charging a fee for transportation, among others.
There has still been no confirmation about whether or not UberHOP is illegal, but they probably shouldn’t be concerned.
The APTA study found that people who use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft are also more likely to use public transportation. To make this determination, the APTA, which includes Canadian representatives like TTC CEO Andy Byford, surveyed over 4,500 users of ride-sharing services in seven cities. About 57 per cent of respondents said the bus and train was the mode of transportation they used the most, followed closely by bike-sharing, ride-sharing, and car-sharing.
These “supersharers”—people who use various shared modes of transportation— also own half as many cars per household and spend less on transportation over all. They are also more active. Twenty per cent of respondents said they had postponed buying a car, 22 per cent decided not to purchase one, and 27 per cent sold their vehicle and didn’t replace it.
One of the most valuable conclusions of the study is that ride-sharing and public transportation shouldn’t be considered as competitors. They simply serve different trip types. Ride-sharing, for example, is mostly used for recreation and social services during hours when public transit doesn’t operate; around 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Public transit was still the most common form of transportation for daily use.
Since these services are no longer competitors, the APTA recommends collaboration, especially when it comes to technology and mobile payment.
“Everyone can benefit from a transportation system that provides more mobility options through seamless transfers, integrated fare payment methods, and improved information,” the study reads. “However, such a system is only possible if public sector entities make a concerted effort to ensure that collaboration with private mobility providers results in services that work for people of all ages, incomes and mobility needs.”
Public transit agencies and private operators who were interviewed for the study showed a strong interest in finding ways to harness shared-use models and technology, especially associated with the paratransit service experience. A good example of this type of collaboration is Milton’s Go Connect, a ride-sharing service that allows Go Transit commuters to book rides to the station.
At the end of the day, ride-sharing services and public transportation both aim to do the same things—help citizens get from one area of the city to another. Why not open up to a partnership and focus on customer experience? Why not invest in technologies that will allow commuters to use their mobile phones to reserve spots on paratransit or to pay for any transportation service.
Why is Toronto fighting this? Whether someone uses a bus, subway, Go Train, or ride-sharing program, that’s one less car on city roads. Shouldn’t that be what Toronto strive for?