News / Edmonton

In Canadian cities, can ride shares fill the public transit void?

TransitCenter study looks at the contentious issue

A file photo of someone using their phone to hail a rideshare.

Metro File

A file photo of someone using their phone to hail a rideshare.

In an effort to save on growing public transit costs, some Canadian cities are turning to private ride share companies to fill a void in what has been traditionally left to city services.
But what isn’t clear is whether or not subsidizing these companies, like Uber, will actually benefit cities, according to Jon Orcutt, the communication director with the TransitCenter, a New York-based research foundation that advocates for better transit.
“There’s nothing out there saying, ‘Oh we’re saving million of dollars and we’re serving more people,’” he said.
The organization has studied cities that have added ride shares to the public transit mix. Here’s what they found.
Ride shares can be good for paratransit
Orcutt said partnerships with ride shares tend to be working in big cities where they’re subsidizing them for para-transit services, which is meant for people with limited mobility.
That’s because paratransit is generally more expensive to run and ride shares can do it cheaper and quicker, he said.
However, he added people who require wheelchairs are losing out because ride shares don’t generally have wheelchair accessible vans as part of their fleet.
Ride shares won’t fully replace public transit
In Edmonton, there were fears that subsidizing ride shares would lead to the privatization of all public transit, and ultimately its demise.
But the math doesn’t add up, Orcutt said.
That’s because cars hog space, he said, noting we can’t change the fact that 40 people in cars will take up more space on city roads than 40 people on a bus or LRT.
In fact, their research in American cities found 10-foot bus or LRT on dedicated transit lanes can move 10,000–25,000 people per hour. Ride shares, on the other hand, can only move 600-1,600 people per hour in the same space.

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