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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Benefits and Challenges of Incorporating Uber and Lyft in Subsidized Ride Programs that Serve Vulnerable Populations

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Cities, transit agencies, and social service providers across the U.S. have implemented programs that provide taxi subsidies for people who have difficulty driving a car or using the regular transit system. These programs usually serve older residents and people with disabilities, though a few also serve low income users. Taxi subsidy programs provide curb-to-curb or door-to-door transportation at a fraction of the cost of paratransit.1 However, as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, have entered markets around the country, taxi availability has declined, resulting in lower levels of service. In response, many public agencies are considering the addition of TNCs to subsidized ride programs; however, the inclusion of TNCs in these programs is not straightforward. For example, agencies must evaluate the extent to which their clients need wheelchair accessible vehicles or other personal assistance. In addition, TNC platforms require users to request rides through a smartphone and use debit or credit cards for payment, which is problematic for unbanked customers and those who do not own or have access to a smartphone.

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