Guest Op-Ed: Agency-TNC Partnership Provides One Model for Improving Universal Access to Transit

Guest Op-Ed: Agency-TNC Partnership Provides One Model for Improving Universal Access to Transit

December 04, 2020  | Katherine Idziorek

Transit agencies have increasingly been partnering with technology firms to create services that better serve the many people affected by mobility impairment. In some instances, private firms deliver first-mile service to transit stations that meet or exceed accessibility goals, as described in Eno’s recent report, Toward Universal Access: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions. In other cases, such as in Marin County’s Connect2Transit program, the technology platforms have worked with agencies to develop a single app for all available services on the network that allow direct comparison of public and private transportation options for riders of all abilities.

The State of California’s 2018 TNC Access for All Act requires “a program relating to accessibility for persons with disabilities” in the regulatory oversight of transportation network companies (TNCs). The law aims to increase on-demand mobility access for the disability community by requiring TNCs to provide accessible services for people with disabilities, including those requiring wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), through their app-based platforms.

In keeping with the goals of the Access for All Act, a partnership between Marin County agencies and TNC Uber provides one innovative model for future public-private collaboration on transit services for riders with physical disabilities. Marin’s Connect2Transit integrates on-demand WAV services into a single mobile platform with other transportation options, including non-WAV transit services and available Uber alternatives.

The concept for the on-demand ride hailing service was first developed through a partnership between Marin County Transit District (Marin Transit) and The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM). In October of 2019, the agencies launched a joint request for proposals in search of an MOD software provider. The agencies’ goal was to find a private-sector partner that could integrate a range of mobility options into a single software platform, thereby testing a new model for public-private mobility partnerships. The contract was awarded to Uber, who set out to create a seamless user experience for all riders while satisfying the requirements of the ADA.

The new service replaces Marin Transit Connect, a pilot service previously provided by partners Marin Transit and another TNC, Via, that offered fully accessible MOD services for Marin County seniors and transit users with disabilities. TAM’s $5-off first-mile/last-mile incentive program connecting riders to and from Marin County SMART stations was also incorporated into the new Connect2Transit service.

With multiple services integrated into a single platform, Connect2Transit expands mobility options for all transit users and provides discounts for trips to transit hubs. In-app customer service features enable riders to provide driver feedback and request refunds. Riders also have the options to request a ride over the phone and pay for fares with cash.

Connect2Transit makes several improvements over the previous Marin Connect service. It provides a single app for all users, regardless of ability, that shows a side-by-side comparison of price and length of ride for all available services, including options for accessible transportation. Previously, Marin Connect customers needed to use separate apps to access transit-provided and mainstream MOD services. The new app platform features a “Marin Connect” option within the Uber app, replacing the separate Marin Transit app used by the pilot service. Of the services included in the new app, public transit, Marin Connect, and UberPool all offer WAV options.

Marin Transit maintains control of service parameters such as price, hours of operation, and service area. Instead of charging a booking fee for each ride, Uber collects payment from Marin Transit through a monthly subscription fee for the use of the platform, enabling rider fares to be collected directly by the agency. TAM has partnered with the County of Marin and Kaiser Permanente, two of the area’s largest employers, to subsidize employee commute trips.

Connect2Transit represents Uber’s first venture into providing software-as-a-service (SaaS) to a public transit agency as well as a step toward expanding transportation options for seniors and the disability community. However, challenges remain regarding the provision of equitable and accessible service through technology-enabled transportation programs.

Although TNCs have been operating for some time, these kinds of public-private partnerships are new and relatively untested from an operational and regulatory perspective. Several agencies have participated in pilot partnerships with TNCs and other private companies to test the potential for integration of transit and mobility on demand (MOD) services. Eno’s recent report describes the ways in which two partnerships served as a testing ground on which to establish operational and performance goals for more inclusive and equitable transportation service.

Share

Related Articles

Metro’s Recurring Problems Raise Questions About Oversight, Management

Metro’s Recurring Problems Raise Questions About Oversight, Management

With most transportation systems, it is clear who is responsible, said Robert Puentes, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a...

Evaluating Point-to-Point Mobility on Demand: Lessons from Los Angeles

Evaluating Point-to-Point Mobility on Demand: Lessons from Los Angeles

In January 2019, LA Metro launched a first-mile, last-mile mobility on demand (MOD) pilot with the ridehailing service Via. This pilot was...

Transit agencies struggle to access funding, rights-of-way, due to complex governance structures

Transit agencies struggle to access funding, rights-of-way, due to complex governance structures

Public transit agencies are busy creating new strategies to deal with multiple problems, said Paul Lewis, chief finance officer and...

Tackling Governance in Transit Megaprojects – Key Lessons from Eno’s Examination of Transit Governance in Austin

Tackling Governance in Transit Megaprojects – Key Lessons from Eno’s Examination of Transit Governance in Austin

Over two dozen new rail transit projects are set to open for service across the United States by 2030. There will likely be even more...

Guest Op-Ed: Reclaiming the National Narrative on Transit Safety

Guest Op-Ed: Reclaiming the National Narrative on Transit Safety

In our daily lives, we often take for granted the numerous protections in place to ensure we arrive safely at our destinations. The now...

Austin's Project Connect: Independent Review of Governance and Leadership

Austin's Project Connect: Independent Review of Governance and Leadership

With the passage of Proposition A in 2020, Austin voters gave their approval to an ambitious, far-reaching vision for the region's transit...

Webinar: Transit Strategies to Meet Climate Goals

Webinar: Transit Strategies to Meet Climate Goals

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, which account for 29 percent of total emissions in the United States, is going to...

Staff Capacity, Driver Shortages, Supply Chain Issues Top of Mind at Senate Rural Transit Hearing

Staff Capacity, Driver Shortages, Supply Chain Issues Top of Mind at Senate Rural Transit Hearing

This week, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing titled “Advancing Public Transportation in Small...

Guest Op-Ed: Micromobility Toward the Future – An Opportunity Arose in the Pandemic

Guest Op-Ed: Micromobility Toward the Future – An Opportunity Arose in the Pandemic

If we attempt to depict the future of transportation, it might be low carbon, unmanned, shared, or electrified. On the other hand, it could...

$2.85 Billion Request for CIG in FY23; Allocation Strategy for IIJA Funding Revealed

$2.85 Billion Request for CIG in FY23; Allocation Strategy for IIJA Funding Revealed

President Biden's fiscal 2023 budget request, released yesterday, includes a $2.85 billion request for appropriations for the Federal...

Senate Transit Hearing Features Local Progress, National Criticism

Senate Transit Hearing Features Local Progress, National Criticism

One year from now, many mass transit providers in the U.S. will face a crisis. The largest providers will have spent all of their shares of...

Guest Op-Ed: Preparing Transit for the Future of Work

Guest Op-Ed: Preparing Transit for the Future of Work

The scale and speed of the transformation in the nature of work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Remote work, which has...

Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks