Over the past 12 months, bus and train riders on the peripheries of Philadelphia; Oakland, California; Tampa, Florida; and other cities have been treated to a little luxury at the end of the commute: a publicly subsidized Uber ride home. It’s the hot new solution to the “last mile” problem. In transit, as in the provision of telecom infrastructure, water pipes, and mail delivery, the last leg of the supply chain is the least efficient—the place where economies of scale dissolve. Transit agencies, perennially strapped for cash, have embraced these pilot programs as a way to save money and, potentially, provide better service. Outside Tampa, for example, the East Lake Connector bus cost the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority about $16 per person per ride. Riders paid $2.25 each.
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